Instant tapas

Posted on: 1st December, 2015

Category: A Flavour of West Cork

Contributor: Karen Austin

I’ve been thinking about what to write for this Christmas edition and decided that, as the garden is just about asleep, I would go to the store cupboard for inspiration. We always have a jumble of canned beans, tuna, anchovies, tomatoes and the like on our shelves, which are very handy for emergency tapas and instant dinners. I got to appreciate the versatility of preserved food after spending time in Barcelona. The Spanish are masters of ‘conservas’ – canned or bottled food and make an amazing array of tasty tapas. The instant aperitif is an art the Spanish have perfected. We used to frequent one bar where all the tapas were made from cans and jars, high class cans and jars mind, montages of different tastes and colours. It’s surprising what can be done with very little effort.

Here are a couple of recipes for ‘instant’ tapas followed by a fairly instant dinner that we make from our pantry. The ingredients are very simple which makes it important that they are of the best quality.


Sardine Toasties


1 can sardines, in oil

2 small red onions, peeled and chopped

1-2tbs lemon juice

50-75mls olive oil

salt and black pepper

1 ripe red tomato

a little fresh parsley

crackers or little toasts to serve



Drain the sardines and put into a food processor or blender with one onion and the sherry or sake. Buzz until fairly smooth then drizzle in the olive oil until you have a smooth paste. Stir in the lemon juice and taste. Season with salt and black pepper

Cut the tomato into slices. Discard the seeds then dice the remaining flesh. Toss together with some chopped red onion, parsley and salt then dress lightly with a little olive oil and lemon juice.

Put a little sardine mix onto crackers or small toasts and pile a little tomato on top.


Artichoke Tapenade


1 jar artichokes in oil – drained

2 heaped tbs pitted green olives

1tbs capers – rinsed

2 cloves garlic

lemon juice – about 1tbs

3tbs extra virgin olive oil



Put all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz everything together.

Serve on crackers or toasts.


Tuna and Caper Carbonara

This dish doesn’t get any prizes in the beauty department – it’s a bit blonde, but it tastes great and whenever we make this for guests they want the recipe – quite a good recommendation!

We usually eat it this with pasta shells or penne, something to catch the sauce.


500g pasta

1 medium large onion, peeled and chopped

200g canned tuna – the best you can find

100mls olive oil

1 glass white wine

100mls vegetable stock

3tbs capers – rinsed well

juice of 1 lemon

3 egg yolks

100mls cream



Put a large pan of water to boil for the pasta.

Heat a medium frying pan, add the olive oil and then the onion. Fry on a medium heat for roughly five minutes, until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Tip in the tuna and gently flake it with a fork.

Turn up the heat and add the wine, allow it to bubble briefly then add the vegetable stock, lemon juice and capers.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Don’t forget to add salt to the cooking water.

Let the sauce cook gently whilst the pasta cooks. The sauce should thicken, if it’s very runny increase the heat until it reduces.

Whisk the egg yolk together with the cream in a cup or small bowl.

When the pasta is cooked drain it onto a colander set over the serving bowl – this will heat the bowl. Tip the water out of the bowl and put the pasta in. Pour the sauce over the pasta, give it a quick mix then drizzle in the egg and cream stirring continuously until well mixed.

We are kicking into Christmas mode at LKP with the baking. The puds are on the go and the mincemeat’s ready for mince tart production. I’ve had fun experimenting and we have come up with a new Christmas cake, a clementine fruitcake. It’s moist, fruity and gluten-free so if you fancy a tasty cake let us know and we’ll bake you one.

Next year’s cooking schedule is ready. We are doing a series of classes in the spring if anyone is interested. Check our website for the full list.

Gift vouchers for the classes and the shop are available

Enjoy the festivities and our very best wishes for the coming New Year


Lettercollum Kitchen Project, 22 Connolly Street, Clonakilty.,,


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