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Thursday, November 1, 2012

tapa celebration

The food vine cannot congratulate itself for many posts since April I'm afraid, the evidence being as plain as day. And there I was thinking five months in France would allow me the leisure time I was so looking forward to: to cook, read and write. Oh how I wish.

But the flip side in lacking time to express my culinary leanings meant spending many precious days with old and new friends, returning to San Sebastian, twice, our favourite city and getting to know a little bit about Corsica, a new love in our lives.

Now back in Australia, France seems a whole world away. It's back to busy days at our property in the Hunter Valley, back with fresh thoughts on food blogging and back with the early beginnings of
a new book in my head. No, not SECOND or LAST, this one's about the Basque country.

I gave San Sebastian a reasonable mention in my cookbook FIRST so while it's still in my mind I thought I'd start the next phase on the food vine with tapas. I'd love to say a tapa a day but that might be pushing it.

The world of miniature food is not just synonymous with Spain. It's spread across all cultures – Greece, the Middle East, north Africa, Asia, Japan and as far away as Scandinavia - and so on. It seems they all have their own version of small dishes in a different guise to that of the tapa but they amount to the same thing. But, standing in bars may not be one of them. No matter the culture miniature food can be anything from simple appetisers to an elaborate range of preparations forming an entire meal. The parallel is we all love eating this way.

But we give credit to the Spanish who have put miniature food on the world map with their tapas, or pintxos/pinchos as they are called in the Basque county. Locals and tourists alike make personal pilgrimages to their favourite bars and not to just one. Bar crawling is part of the ritual.

The informality of a loud and buzzy bar is very appealing. No standing on ceremony, no dress rules, eating as much or as little as one likes. Personally selecting mouthfuls of delicious food from a sea of tiny, savoury morsels punctuated only with glasses of cool, delicious Spanish wine is as good as it gets.

Tapas need not be traditional. There's a whole host of bars now competing for first prize in the modern tapa movement. The reinvention of the traditional tapa with innovation and style at affordable prices is where San Sebastian comes into its own. Bars such as Borda Berri, Zeruko, A Fuego Negro and La Cuchara de San Telmo are to name a few. Here are their addresses in the old city, the Parte Vieja, just in case you get there before me:

Borda Berri: 12 Fermin Calbeton
Zeruko: 10 Calle Pescaderia
La Cuchara de San Telmo: 28 Corredor San Telmo off Calle Agosto
A Fuego Negro: 31 Calle de Agosto

My love of Spain, its culture, food and wine is a fine way to celebrate the food vine's fourth birthday posting. I've gone for a modern bent, not a traditional one.


one big, fat scallop without coral per head
1 slice of prosciutto per head
Dash of grape-seed oil for the pan
1 x quarter cauliflower broken into florets
salt and white pepper
2 tablespoons thick cream
A little garnish of your choice
Extra virgin olive oil to garnish
Sea salt to garnish


Steam the cauliflower for 10-15 minutes until soft, remove from heat.
Place the cauliflower in a food blender with the cream, salt and pepper and whizz to achieve a smooth purée.

Wrap a slice of prosciutto around the middle of each scallop and secure with a toothpick. You may need to cut the prosciutto to size so it completely covers the sides of the scallop. Remove any straggly ends.

Heat a frying pan then add the oil. Sear the scallops on each side until they are cooked, two the three minutes. You might need to turn them on their sides using a circular motion to ensure the prosciutto is cooked all the way round.

Smear a little cauliflower purée onto a gleaming white plate, place the scallop on top.
Garnish with a herb flower, salt salt and drizzle a tiny amount of extra virgin olive oil over the top.

(photograph taken in our kitchen in south west France)

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