Your cut-out-and-keep guide to the fundamentals of cooking
Because tapas are small, attention to detail matters — and they need to have a lot of flavour. We use cheese in our meatballs because it adds an extra layer of taste and richness. All-meat meatballs can be a bit dry. We don’t add egg or breadcrumbs. Meatballs don’t need that glueing together or that padding out. You don’t want to overmix your ingredients so that you have hard, tightly packed meatballs. There’s no need to use a mixer, just get the ingredients gently blended with your hands, to bring all the flavours through each other.
People worry about meatballs being cooked through, so make them small, then they don’t need a lot of cooking. Sealing them in the pan before finishing in the oven will also intensify the flavour. But don’t overcook them. We serve our meatballs with a simple tomato sauce. We make it with tinned San Marzano tomatoes, red wine, garlic, oregano and rosemary. Just cook it gently down to a thick, rich sauce.
If you’re making tapas at home, the best start is always good bread. Serve it with olives, olive oil, even a selection of Spanish ham and cheese. Meatballs are the classic, but I’d also say that gambas pil-pil — prawns cooked in spicy oil — are key. Irish people love patatas bravas and tortilla, but in No5 Vinoteca, our Parmesan fries are a huge hit, even if they’re not classically Spanish. We serve our meatballs in lovely little clay pots with the tomato sauce poured over them, a splash of extra-virgin olive oil, a bit of parsley, grated cheese and olives. A bit of bread on the side is crucial to mop up all the sauce. Serves 6.
You will need:
1kg (2lbs) prime Irish beef mince 2 tablespoons sweet paprika 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes 2 cloves minced garlic 250g (9oz) Manchego or Parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra for serving Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for frying Tomato sauce, splash of extra-virgin olive oil, chopped fresh parsley and green olives, to serve
In a large mixing bowl, mix the mince, the sweet paprika, the dried chilli flakes, the minced garlic, the grated Manchego or Parmesan cheese, whichever you’re using, and the salt and freshly ground black pepper together. Form into bite-sized balls. This recipe should make about 36 meatballs in total, making it six per person. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan over a medium heat. Do not overcrowd the pan with meatballs; brown them gently in batches. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 390°F, Gas 6. Put the browned meatballs on a ovenproof dish and cook them through in the oven for a further 10-12 minutes. Serve them coated with tomato sauce, a splash of extra-virgin olive oil, and chopped fresh parsley, grated Manchego or Parmesan cheese, whichever you are using, and green olives.