Tapas of stuffed figs – always a winner!
Tapas, the Spanish version of what we call “snacks”! It can be something as simple as a bowl of mixed olives of bread and cheese! Exactly the way I like to eat……
Tapas are derived from the word “tapar” which means “to cover” and it goes back as far as the days when old sherry drinkers used to sit in the bar and cover their drinks with slices of meat, cheese or bread to keep the fruit flies out. Eventually bartenders started to serve tapas that way!
Tapas is also how Liezl Vermeulen got to live a dream far beyond her expectations…….. you see Liezl studied at ICA to be a chef and when I first met her when they came for a “writing class”, I knew she is going places. Her passion and drive and search for perfection in all that she does, was so refreshing and almost tangible.
At the beginning of the year Liezl entered the 7th training program in Spanish gastronomy . Anyone could enter via a chef-skool/college and she entered with the help of ICA. As part of her application she had to write a motivation letter , develop a tapa recipe and submit a photograph.
On Monday 17th March, Liezl was informed that she was the only person in Africa to participate in the program. She flew to Spain and met 11 other students from all over the world – Argintinia, Canada , Poland , Ireland , Eslovinia , Japan, India and more.
Her adventure has already started three weeks ago when her online Spanish course had started. What a challenge to find a new language to try to learn in 2 months! Liezl is leaving for Spain again in June. For the first 6 weeks she will continue Spanish classes and also international chef school practical classes.
After that she will for 3 months work hands-on in a restaurant, maybe to learn just why 3 restaurants on the world ‘s Top 10 Best restaurants list are in Spain!
After that all that students will come back together and have a 3 weeks tour through Spain. Lastly there will be a tapas Competition between all the international students to show what they have learned .
For Liezl it is such an honor to be an ambassador for our country ‘s food, people and culture – we are so proud of you Liezl!
I asked Liezl to send us one of her winning recipes and she decided on these stuffed Andalucia figs. She made a variety of tapas representing the different regions in Spain and their ingredients. Andalucia is the region where the Arabs had colonies in earlier years and to this day you can see their influence in the food of this region – pomegranate, figs, almonds, spices and other luxuries. These products were the inspiration for her tapas. It will go perfectly with a glass of red wine at the fireplace with winter coming.
Andalucia’s Stuffed Figs
6 figs (black Evita or any other kind of skin which can be eaten)
20g Parmesan (in Spain we would Manchengo cheese used, they are hard parmesan cheese)
30 g almonds, chopped
2 thyme leaves
6 strips of panchetta (or streaky bacon)
zest of ½ orange
(This sauce is optional and can be replaced with a drizzle of honey)
10 ml pomegranate concentrate
20 ml sherry
50 ml water
10 ml honey
Preheat oven to 180C. Cut figs in half by 1/4 (it should still be under fasting). Place Parmesan, almonds, thyme and orange zest in a bowl and mix well. Fill each fig with nut mixture. Turning now pancetta / bacon to the figs and place on a baking sheet. Bake 5-10 minutes or until lightly browned nuts and panchetta color.
For the syrup, place all ingredients in a small pot and cook gently until thickened. Serve with figs.
The recipe can be enjoyed as a tapas dinner with wine before or after dinner cheese plate.
Tomorrow morning just after the 9 o’clock news, I will be chatting to Liezl about this exciting adventure and she will be sharing this easy recipe with you! I will also in weeks to come take you into the kitchens of other bloggers, chefs and interesting South Africans this year. So buckle up, it is going to be an awesome ride. Tune in 100-104FM or listen online here!