An Pláta Beag
“Life without Tapas, is like a heart without love.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
Small, sharing plates of food are nothing new. Tapas are thought to date back to the 13th Century in Spain while Meze can be traced right back to Ancient Persia. Although the tradition of small plates never really died out in Spain, Italy and the Middle East in particular, it is a relatively recent arrival to Irish shores. Tapas bars are now dotted all over the country while Middle Eastern inspired restaurants are opening in our cities to rave reviews.
There is something quite liberating about sharing small plates of food. In a restaurant setting you can taste many different dishes without having to re-mortgage your house but I find that it’s the home kitchen where small plates really shine. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work either. I will often cook four different small plates for our dinner. One will invariably be a potato or carb heavy option. There will usually (although certainly not always) be a meat/fish dish while the other two could be anything from a simple dressed salad to freshly made hummus to za’atar roasted vegetables. The real joy of doing this at home is that the dishes can last a couple of days. The next day you may only need to add one or two more plates to the leftovers to provide a meal.
Less Meat, More Veg
Since starting to cook this way, I have found myself naturally eating less meat and more vegetables. Although I have no intention of turning vegetarian, I feel that this way of eating would make the transition far easier than I would ever have imagined. A cultural mix of dishes has a way of satisfying the taste buds that a meat and two veg main could only dream of. I will be posting numerous recipes for small plates in the coming months but here are some suggestions to get started:
Putting It Together
Putting together your small plates meal is very simple. Although not limited to only foods that would normally work on the same plate, it is good to think a little about what will work together. If the meat dish is quite heavy, then maybe pair it with a nice salad, a couple of vegetable options and a sauce of some kind. If one dish has particularly strong or bold flavours, try not to compete too much with the other dishes. Some nice bread can quite easily replace a carb dish where required and a sauce could be as simple as stirring some chopped herbs through natural yoghurt. Some recent combinations that have worked well for me:
- Rare Steak, Wrinkled Potatoes, Squash with Za’atar, Green Salad, Mojo Picon.
- Lemon Marinated Goat Chops, Couscous with Mint and Coriander, Butterbeans with Paprika and Chilli, Mushrooms with Garlic.
- Saffron Chicken, Flatbread, Tomato and Oregano Salad, Butterbeans with Spinach, Yoghurt with Mint
It may not be anything revolutionary but it is a thoroughly enjoyable way to eat.