Welcome to another edition of Cooking for Dummies, with me, the girl who is a code red healthy and safety risk in the kitchen!
Last week The Beard and I had some friends round to our new flat for dinner. I’m not sure how it happened but despite my lack of cooking experience, I ended up being chosen as head chef for the evening, well the only chef for the evening. I think I may have even volunteered to do it! I must have been tipsy when offering myself up for the task. A girl that can’t cook offering to cook for ten people? Really Tink? I wish I could meet the drunk me so that I could slap her.
I decided to do Tapas because a) we had a brand new Tapas cookbook and b) we don’t yet have a big enough table for an official sit down dinner party. I figured Tapas is almost like a buffet and you can’t go wrong with a buffet (I’m a Northerner, we love our buffets). I opened our Tapas cookbook, given to us by The Beards parents, and selected a few dishes I thought I would be capable of making. Of course even the dishes I thought I could handle still had all these ingredients I’d never heard of, and frankly didn’t fancy forking out for them all. When I would use Spanish Vinegar again? Where would I even get it? And dill? Is that a herb or a plant? Or are plants and herbs the same thing?
In the end I decided going by the exact cookbook instructions was too much for little old me and that surely I could make more simple Tapas meals that still taste good. And so with that I present ‘Tapas for Idiots’ – my basic guidelines to hosting a Tapas night for kitchen-phoebes like me.
You will need:
4 mixed Peppers
1 clove of garlic
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of chick peas
Mixed Mediterranean veg – the ones you stick in the oven.
Parsley (optional – but it makes everything look more restaurant like)
Mixed herbs (if you like)
Meatballs (pre-made obviously)
Wine (for you to enjoy why your cooking)
I purchased ALL the above from Aldi (bar the £2.99 bottle of wine which I got from my local shop) and all together everything came to £17. Bargain or what? I love Aldi and buy most of my food there, it’s not only cheap but great quality.
Let’s get the easy bit out the way. Empty the olives into a bowl and serve. That’s one dish done. Boom! (Yes, technically it counts as a dish). If you happen to have Virgin olive oil for dipping – which surprisingly I did – serve with that.
Secondly tear up the pitta bread into strips, lay on a plate/platter/whatever you’re working with, sit the Hummus next to it. Boom! Another dish done. See my way is easy. If you want, you could chop up some peppers too for some Hummus dipping, just make sure to de-seed (I advise cutting the ends off the peppers, removing the seed bit and chopping into strips).
For the next starter there is a bit more to it than unwrapping and serving, but it’s still easy peasy. Your just going to make goats cheese on peppers. First chop the peppers into strips (same way as above) and lay on a plate. Next take your goats cheese and chop up into 1cm pieces, you may not need it all. Place the pieces of cheese on top of the peppers. Once that’s done, sprinkle with pepper (and salt if you like?) and sprinkle some chopped up Parsley. Doesn’t it look pretty??
Next up is that Mediterranean veg you bought. If your
lazy clever like me, you should have purchased the one that you just whack in the oven for 30 minutes. Do that.
Whilst the starters have been served and the veg is cooking, you can do your mains. The first main your going to make is Chorizo and Chickpeas. It’s actually very straight forward. First prepare the meat by chopping up your Chorizo into chunky pieces. Chop up one onion and one clove of garlic. Split into two piles, the first pile is for this dish, the rest for another, so put to one side. Heat some oil up in a pan and add the first lot of chopped onions and garlic. Let them go nice and brown.
Next, add your Chorizo and stir around with the onions and garlic for about eight minutes on a medium heat. Once cooked empty into a bowl/dish. Then stir in your tin of chickpeas straight from the tin. No need to cook or boil, just straight from the tin (I like easy things like this). Mix up and the Chrorizo juices should blend with the chickpeas adding flavour to the dish (apparently). Finally sprinkle some chopped Parsley on top.
Before going onto your next main, go to the fridge and take out your chilled bottle of £2.99 wine and guzzle a glass. If your anything like me, I’m sure by this point your nervous and fretting, and even a bit sweaty.
Next up is the Spanish Meatballs (as advised above, buy the meatballs already balled up, it will make everything easier). First heat up some oil in a pan, then add your second lot of onion and garlic and stir on a medium heat until they go soft and brown. Then add your (already prepared) meatballs. Stir around the pan. Make sure they go brown all the way over. So not like this …
… but like this
It should take about ten minutes, maybe a little more, but you can always check by taking one out, cutting it in half and checking it’s brown all the way through, and NOT pink or red (or any other colour for that matter, that would be weird).
Don’t forget about your veg. Once that’s done, take out and serve.
Next add your two tins of chopped tomatoes to your meatballs. Leave on a low heat to simmer – I think that’s the right terminology – and add some mixed herbs if you have some. Once you feel the meatballs are cooked and the sauce is at a temperature to your liking, you just have one thing left to do, the very important task of changing them from just ‘Meatballs’ to ‘Spanish Meatballs’. Just pull out your oh-so-Spanish ingredient, Paprika, and add a pinch. I don’t know what a pinch is, but going by Jamie Oliver’s standards, a ‘pinch’ is normally a regular person ‘large pouring’ so I basically just sprinkled a lot in … about three times.
Finally serve in a dish and of course, chuck on a load of chopped up Parsley.
Parsley rules! It makes everything look better.
Make sure to serve up lots of little plates so everyone can go grab a bit of every dish, and not forgetting put some salt and pepper out.
And there you have it. You have successfully made Tapas. My Tapas dinner party was a success … hmmmm … sort of … one last little word of advice, it’s best to double check the dietary requirements of your guests, unlike me, who made meaty mains and then discovered four of my six guests were vegetarians. So not a total success, oops!