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June 04, 2007

The Book of Tapas

Celia Sin-Tien Cheng

Just in time for summer and smaller appetites, The Book of Tapas is from authors of the Spanish cooking bible 1080 Recipes, Simone and Inés Ortega. From classic tapas like gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) to tortilla española (Spanish omelette), you can create them at home.

I’m sharing two simple recipes from The Book of Tapas that got me excited: ham and quail egg tapa and elvers salad.

Ham and Quail Egg Tapa
Tapa de Jamon Y Huevos de Codorniz

Makes 24

12 quails’ eggs
12 large slices bread
12 thin slices Serrano ham
1/3 cup (75 g/2½ oz) butter or margarine, softened, for spreading, plus extra for garnishing (optional)
Chopped parsley, to garnish

Put the quails’ eggs into a large pan of salted water, bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Drain off the hot water and fill the pan with cold running water to stop the cooking. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, shell them. Leave in a bowl of cold water if not using at once.

Using a 2-inch (5-cm) round cookie cutter, cut out 24 circles from the bread. Using the same cutter, cut out 24 circles of ham. Butter one side of each slice of bread, taking care not to tear the bread.
Sprinkle the parsley over the buttered side of each circle, then top each with a circle of ham.

Drain the eggs if they are in water and pat dry, then cut each in half lengthwise. Put half an egg on top of each tapa, cut side down, then sprinkle with parsley. The tapas can be served like this, or you can garnish them with soft piped butter all around, if you like. They are best served immediately but if prepared in advance, store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Elver Salad
Ensalada de Angulas

Serves 4

1 lb 2 oz (500 g) elvers or gulas, rinsed
1 jar (100 g/3½ oz) mullet roe or lumpfish roe Juice of ½ a lemon, strained
½ onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vodka
Dash of extra-virgin olive oil

Put the elvers or gulas and mullet roe into a bowl and pour the lemon juice over them. Add the onion and mix everything together with a fork. Pour in the vodka and oil and season with pepper.
Mix again and serve.

Note: Elvers are baby eels that are three to twelve months old. Once eaten as cheap seafood, elvers are now highly prized and priced accordingly. They can also be difficult to find. Try the more economical gulas, which are imitation or ‘manufactured’ baby eels made from fish, and typically found in Spanish food stores.