Ten years ago Spanish food was a relatively unknown entity, but recently we’ve embraced it, shunning Italian staples in favour of Iberian delicacies. The Co-op experts explain the popularity behind tapas dishes based on their customers' buying habits, and offer a beginner’s guide to versatile Spanish ingredients.
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Sharing food is one of the hottest trends we at the Co-op have seen over the last few years, as classically British, formal dining has been replaced by a more relaxed, European style. Much of this is due to an increase in eating out – it’s now estimated 19 million adults dine out at least once a week, up from 17 million in 2012.
More chorizo please!
We think the new popularity of Spanish food, could simply be down to one not-so-humble sausage – the chorizo. Our Co-op buyers tell us this is because spice is one of the biggest food trends at the moment, and chorizo packs a punch without being too ‘hot’. Our Spanish produce experts at the Co-op think the 21% growth in sales of chorizo is also down to its versatility - it has a long life, and gives added depth of flavour to loads of everyday meals, not just tapas!
So why haven't we taken to tapas before?
Tapas isn’t necessarily about complicated skills in the kitchen, but more about using authentic Spanish produce, which has traditionally been hard to come by in store. But now that we at the Co-op are stocking high quality Spanish ingredients at accessible prices, embracing Spanish cuisine has never been cheaper or easier. At the Co-operative, we have seen the huge growth of Spanish alternatives to traditional Italian options. Our expert buyers suggest that users look out for Serrano ham in store, which offers a more robust flavour than Parma, at a much cheaper price.
Want to try it for yourself? Here’s the Co-op’s beginner's guide to Spanish food…
Cured and ready-to-eat versions come pre-sliced for topping a pizza or adding to a sharing platter, like our Loved by Us Spanish sliced Chorizo with paprika and garlic, or whole - so you can dice yourself for a chunkier hit in paellas and stews.
Sometimes called Chorizo Sarta, the classic ‘horseshoe’ shape of a whole chorizo comes from the string (‘sarta’), that ties the chorizo ends together so it can be hung during curing.
Our Loved by Us Chorizo ring is drier and firmer than the pre-sliced alternative, perfect for adding a smoky intensity to soups, stews, rice or roasts. Packed with flavour, it’s milder than spicy pepperoni, but smokier than standard salami – so seems to appeal to everyone’s palate.
The most popular Spanish cheese, it has a mild, nutty flavour a bit like Swiss Gruyere. Traditionally the Spanish slice it thinly and top with a little honey, or quince paste.
Look out for Loved by Us Pimento stuffed olives with chilli & Manchego cheese for a delicious combination.
This is a bit like a baked omelette stuffed with potato and onion. Delicious hot or cold, it’s a must-have for a tapas party.
Dry-cured rather than cooked, just like the Italian’s Parma ham, this richly flavoured, but delicately sliced ham is perfect for eating straight from the packet but also crisps up beautifully when wrapped around chicken or fish before roasting.
Traditionally the Spanish enjoy it on bread, rubbed with olive oil and garlic and spread with pulped or chopped tomatoes.
Try at home by picking up one of our Loved by Us Spanish Tapas Selection – combining Serrano ham, our sliced Chorizo and some Salchichon – a more mildly cured sausage that doesn’t contain paprika but tastes more similar to, and resembles, salami.