When you're not exactly sure what you're in the mood for, tapas is the answer — you can't go wrong when you've got a little bit of everything.
If you've never had the pleasure of experiencing this delicacy, then we pity you. Derived from the word meaning 'to cover', tapas can be traced back to medieval Spanish inns who would lift the covers from their cooking pots to offer travellers a sample of their wares.
To this day, tapas remains a meal comprised of numerous small, traditional Spanish dishes. It can make for an excellent night out, but have you ever even tried to recreate the experience at home?
Whether you're making dinner for two or throwing a dinner party like a proper adult, here's what you need to do for a thoroughly Spanish night in.
1. Sourcing the best ingredients
Top chefs know that this is what sets a quality meal apart — the difference in flavour between a sauce made from tinned tomatoes and one made from those fresh from the vine is remarkable.
Some of the most common ingredients for tapas dishes include marinaded olives, cured ham, meat balls, battered squid, prawns and fresh, crusty bread.
After all, if you're going to the effort of planning an extra special night in then it may as well taste extra special too.
2. Be sure you've got the right equipment
Sounds obvious, but remember this isn't your typical dining experience.
Tapas is all about having a sample of various different foods, so that can require a lot of pots, pans, platters and excellent timing skills so that you can actually enjoy all your dishes while they're still warm.
To simplify things, bulk out your meal with easy-to-make cold dishes like bacalao (thinly sliced salted cod loin served with bread and tomatoes).
And when it comes to presentation, remember this: everything looks classier when served on a bread board.
3. Set the scene
You're enjoying Spanish cuisine, so why not enjoy some Spanish ambiance too?
You'll want a little mood lighting, so illuminate your dining table with plenty of candles. Have some Spanish guitar music playing in the background, we'd suggest a little Paco De Lucía or Tomatito.
If you want to make this a real Spanish dinner, you'll be eating later in the evening, between 9 and 11pm, but that's totally up to you.
It'll feel as if you were transported to a traditional taberna.
4. Make sure you've got the most traditional options
They're classics for a reason, y'know.
Here are a few of dishes you shouldn't even dream of leaving out: albóndigas (meatballs in sauces), aceitunas (olives stuffed with anchovies or red bell pepper), gambas (prawns sauteed in peppercorn sauce, garlic, or chopped chilli peppers), tortilla española (omelette with fried chunks of potato and onion) and, of course, patatas bravas (fried potato dices covered roasted tomato aioli).
Also, if you're not incorporating some form of cured ham, you're doing something wrong.
5. Complement with appropriate drinks
To complete the tapas experience, which all began in an inn, you need a drink that complements your meal and washes it all down beautifully.
If you want to be more traditional about it, a fine red wine is what you'll be wanting. For those with a bit of a sweet tooth, sangría should be your drink of choice.
But if your dishes end up being a wee bit on the spicy side of things, your best bet is a nice crisp beer like Estrella Damm to wash it all down and toast to an evening of Spanish appreciation.