Love fleeing south at this time of year to feel the warm sun on our backs: we just returned from the best part of a week in Andalucia (Sevilla and Córdoba), neatly sandwiched between a weekend in Barcelona and another in Empordá. We didn’t do too much sunbathing (there’s always a risk for us northerners of looking like a pair of parsnips: white, wrinkled and wintry) but boy, did we do some eating. Tapas, mainly. In fact, I came away wondering why on earth anyone would bother with anything else?
For lunch and then again for dinner, we grazed our way first around the streets of Sevilla, and then did more of the same in Córdoba. Over the week there were mouthfuls of rich shellfish soup topped with a little skewer of plump mussels, tataki-style seared tuna with a tomato/onion/parsley oil salsa, ham croquetas done so beautifully they could just about persuade you that a thick béchamel with chopped ham rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried could actually be LIGHT, garlic-laden prawn ‘hamburgers’, char-grilled veggies with salsa romesco, chorizo lollipops/popsicles, shrimps rolled in shoestring strips of potato and deep-fried, under-age broad beans or artichokes with melting jamón ibérico, tempura-battered fish, nuggets of baby lamb or Iberian pork…. all of them accompanied by the obligatory fino - which in Sevilla is shorthand for sherry, but in Córdoba means Montilla-Moriles (don’t confuse them for fear of causing mortal offence), both of them straw-pale, crisp, super-dry with a salty tang, just made to go with food on the hoof.
Little wonder Spanish cooking is conquering the world. They thought of the menu dégustation long before anyone dreamt up the term. It’s called tapas.