If there is something for which Spanish food is recognised world-wide that is the invention of tapas. These little portions of food have made Spanish gastronomy popular in almost every corner of the planet, but there’s still much confusion about what a tapa is (or even isn’t). We have asked our member Mariscal & Sarroca, experts on fine food products, to shed some light on the topic. Here’s their view on the subject.


A tapa is truly an essential element of Spanish gastronomy. A tapa is defined as ‘any small portion of food that accompanies a drink’. Tapas bars can be found all around the world, and London is no exception. Experts do not agree on how the concept of tapa was created. Some people attribute its invention to the King Alfonso X, and some others to King Alfonso XIII.

Legend has it that Alfonso X, who was King of Castile and Leon in the 13th c. had weak health, and he ordered that all the inns throughout his land had to always serve wine with a bit of food, so that the wine would be easier to digest. Cervantes, the great novelist from the XVII talks about this custom.

However, there are those who think that the origin of tapas and the name must be attributed to Alfonso XIII. It seems that the King was visiting the province of Cadiz where he ordered a glass of sherry. It was very windy that day, often the case in this area, and to stop the beach sand from flying into the King’s glass, the waiter covered it with a slice of ham.


The King thought this was a fantastic idea, and he ordered all the next rounds of sherries to come with a ‘tapa’, word which in Spanish means ‘lid’ or ‘cover’. The concept quickly spread throughout the country, and as you know, going out for tapas and drinks is a very popular tradition in Spain, a fun way of tasting an array of different flavours, but not getting too full.

The products from Mariscal & Sarroca are prefect to prepare the best quality tapas in no time. Do not take our word for it and give our products a go trying to reproduce the classic ham croquetas, an all-time tapas winner.


Croquetas are small, lightly breaded and fried fritters. They are a sure hit as an appetizer or an afternoon snack with a beer or a glass of wine. They are creamy and smooth and very tasty. You can make the dough ahead and freeze it. A very popular Spanish tapa!

Ingredients (makes about 25)

– 250 g Iberico ham Mariscal & Sarroca

– 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Mariscal & Sarroca

– 120 g unsalted butter

– 115 g plain flour

– 1 l full fat milk

– ½ tsp nutmeg

– Salt and pepper for seasoning

– 3 eggs, beaten

– 250 g breadcrumbs

– 1 l oil for deep frying


Cut the ham into small pieces, heat the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan and gently fry the ham for about 10 minutes until any fat has been largely rendered off. Stir in the flour and continue to cook, over a low heat, for a further 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Put the milk into a pan and gently warm to just below a simmer. Gradually beat the warm milk into the ham and flour mixture, stirring all the time to form a smooth béchamel. Continue to cook and stir for a further 10 to 15 minutes. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and black pepper.

Remove from heat, transfer mixture to a container and leave to cook slightly, cover with cling film, pressing it down to the surface of the béchamel to prevent a skin forming. Put in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours.

To make the croquetas, have the beaten eggs in a shallow bowl, followed by the breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl, and a tray where to arrange the finished croquetas.

Using your hands, form a golfball sized sphere with the béchamel. Dip it into the egg, coat well with the breadcrumbs and leave to rest on the tray. Repeat until all the mixture has been used.

Heat the oil in a large pan or deep fryer and fry the croquetas in batches for about 2-3 minutes until heated through and golden brown. Remove from the oil, drain on kitchen paper and serve at once while still hot.




The content of this post has been sponsored by Mariscal & Sarroca, member of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain. If you would like to find out more about Mariscal & Sarroca, learn other delicious recipes or simply order the products to reproduce at home some tasty croquetas, please visit their website gourmetfoodspain.co.uk/ or click on the image below.

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Mariscal & Sarroca will be taking part in the Speciality & Fine Food Fair, the quintessential trade event for fine food, that will take place from 7th – 9th September in London.  If you would like to drop in to visit them, please visit www.specialityandfinefoodfairs.co.uk for further details on how to attend.

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