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Hints, tips and Spanish food ideas for hosting the ideal tapas party

We often get asked "what kind of tapas parties do you have over there in Spain?" the simple answer is "unplanned ones!" This is the beauty of tapas - the event can either happen suddenly or can be planned catering for as many people as you like. The tapa - Andalusia's finest invention still lives on in the Granada region in bars and restaurants, visiting friends in Spain also results in tapas being placed on the table, a real piece of Spanish culture. The best feature about tapas are that they can be almost anything, given time to plan ahead a tapas party can add a real traditional selection of Spain for your guests, a whole array of colour, flavour and selection.

Hosting a Spanish Tapas Party

No tapas party should be without the Serrano ham, ideal for both small and larger functions the full leg Serrano ham takes centre stage at any venue - in the home, outdoors, at weddings plus a host of other celebrations or party events. Carving can be done before guests arrive and during the party itself - a real taking point. Serrano ham tapas are ideal for combinations and accompaniments with fruits, wine and cheese - no tapas party should be without a ham!

Chorizo's, salchichons, lomo and sobrasada etc all make exceptional small Spanish dishes (or one spectacular large one) served up with tomatoes and fresh red peppers these cured sausages are very popular in Spain - almost the backbone of a good tapas selection. Not forgetting bacalao (salted cod) to add a seafood twist this highly versatile piece of cod can be served on its own or made up into cod fritters - a real Mediterranean flavour sure to impress the guests.

Where would a tapas party be without salsa? Spain's most famous dip should be everywhere at a tapas party accompanied with breadsticks and toasted biscuits the salsa is a fantastic dip to have on the table. If you are planning to cook a range of tapas then Canary Island sauce is a real treat - for marinating and also as a dip. On the cooking side of things "hot tapas" are always a real hit with guests - bring out your chilli garlic prawns (gambas al pil pil) with a large plate of fresh bread and watch everyone tuck in! There are many seafood and meat recipes ideal for tapas either hot or cold the key at the party is variation, leaving the guests spell bound is a great achievement - don't let out your secret though that tapas are easy!

Andalusia is the home of flamenco, vibrant, colourful and impressive - make your tapas stand out with some real and very tasty colour combinations, pequillo peppers for example are ruby red, smokey and sweet in flavour and another partner for those ham slices. Tomatoes both add colour and flavour as do green peppers, asparagus, paprika and certain fruits such as melon and passion fruit. The key really is to create flavours and colours typical of the Andalusia region, there are no rules as such so experimentation is also important (even our Spanish neighbour's parents still dabble in the odd Spanish flavour combo from time to time)

Olives. Well the olive is an acquired taste, the Spanish say that there is an olive for everyone - it's just a matter of finding it. Tapas wouldn't be tapas without olives! Try the flavoured variety with herbs or garlic in small bowls.

If it is a real Spanish theme you are looking for then you can't go wrong with some good Spanish terracotta. Ceramics are both functional and decorative so wine pitchers and cazuelas are a must for presenting the wine or sangria along side the tapas dishes themselves. Any good tapas party has atmosphere in abundance, guests create the best of this but a little background music adds that authentic Spanish feel to the function especially outdoors.

Will the guests love it? Absolutely, a tapas party is a great alternative to the traditional planned 3 or 4 course meals or even a buffet, a spread of good food to be enjoyed by all. Lastly, on the night your tapas party in true style should have not a hint of organisation! Just let everyone dig in and enjoy something a little different.

Just add friends!

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