When it comes to tapas, acclaimed Auckland chef Jasbir Kaur knows her stuff. She has worked in Spain – the homeland of tapas – at the legendary Disfrutar. Jasbir has been both competitor and judge at the World Tapas Competition in Valladolid, and she is organiser of the highly anticipated Australasia Tapas Competition, which takes place at Ignite Colleges in Auckland each year.
This year’s competition kicks off on September 5, and as aspiring tapas chefs prepare for battle Chef Kaur shares her tips on creating tapas that will steal the show.
#1. Begin with the best ingredients: The foundation of exceptional tapas lies in the quality of ingredients you choose. Seek out the freshest produce, locally sourced if possible, and allow their natural flavours to shine through. Every good tapas dish should tell a story, and your ingredients are the protagonists of the tapas tale you’re about to tell.
#2. Embrace cultural fusion: Tapas have transcended boundaries, merging diverse cultures and flavours onto a single plate. Don’t be afraid to blend culinary traditions, infusing your tapas with a global touch. A delicate balance of flavours from various cuisines can result in a unique and memorable dining experience.
#3. Elevate simplicity with imagination: Tapas celebrate simplicity, but it’s your imagination that will set your creations apart. Take a classic like patatas bravas and reimagine it with a drizzle of saffron-infused aioli or craft a twist on a Spanish tortilla by incorporating regional herbs and spices. Let your creativity guide you toward tapas that intrigue and delight.
#4. Create a symphony of textures and tastes: Take diners on a journey with every bite – combine crunchy with creamy, tangy with sweet, and ensure that every element on the plate contributes to the harmony.
#5. Attention to presentation: Visual appeal is a hallmark of fine dining, and tapas are no exception. Arrange your small plates with artistic finesse. Play with colours, heights, and shapes to make each tapa a work of edible art. Remember, the first bite is with the eyes.
#6. Create a perfect pairing: Unlock the potential of your tapas by thoughtfully pairing them with beverages. Whether it’s a crisp white wine to cut through the richness of a chorizo tapa or a craft cocktail that echoes the flavours of your seafood creation, the right pairing will elevate the dining experience.
#7. Passion and dedication: Pour your heart and soul into your tapas, infusing them with your genuine love for the craft. Your dedication will resonate with every bite, creating a connection between you, your tapas dish, and the diner.
#8. Innovation grounded in tradition: While innovation is key, tapas find their roots in history and tradition. Pay homage to the origins of these small plates while weaving your own culinary narrative. Innovate fearlessly – but with respect – and blend past and present to create your masterpiece.