When I think of Spain, I think of sunshine, siestas, and seriously tasty food. I once lived in Barcelona for five months as part of my bachelor’s degree, and I can assure you that I squeezed as much food- and wine-sampling out of that time as humanly possible.
I loved wandering the vibrant markets in Barcelona and sampling the fresh, local produce. It seemed as though there were green grocers and market stands on almost every corner. Barcelona is a vegetarian’s heaven – everywhere you look there are bright red tomatoes, perfectly ripe avocados, and vegetables of practically every colour under the sun.
Food is an integral part of Spanish culture. It brings people together for meals around the table, and family recipes are passed down from generation to generation. There’s even a word (sobremesa) to describe everything that happens at the dinner table – the talking, laughing, and togetherness.
The Spanish also have an unusual food-related quirk in that they tend to eat their main meal at around 10pm. While it may not be the best for digestion, it’s certainly effective at building an appetite. I have to say, this was the one side of Spanish food culture that I struggled to fully embrace.
Perhaps the most well-known aspect of Spanish food, however, is tapas, where lots of small portions of different dishes are served together rather than in one main dinner plate.
For indecisive people like me, this setup is pretty perfect. When I was living in Spain, I didn’t have to pore over the menu and agonize over my choice – I could just pick my top few options and indulge all my temptations.
And indulge I did. I tried my best to sample as many different tapas as possible. Patatas bravas, croquetas, pan con tomate, and several others for which, to this day, I’m not sure I could even remember the Spanish name, let alone the English translation.
One particular dish that stands out in my mind is berenjenas con miel – eggplants with honey. The beauty of this eggplant dish is in its simplicity. As with so many things in life, less is more when it comes to this easy and delicious eggplant tapa.
With just a few simple pantry ingredients, you can whip up this Spanish eggplant tapa and dream of sunny summer days by the beach. You could even make a night of it and invite your friends over for a Mediterranean-themed evening featuring a whole variety of tapas.
I’ve listed non-dairy milk in the ingredients to make this side dish truly plant-based. However, if your prefer, feel free to substitute this for normal dairy milk.
Ingredients (for a small side serving for 2-3 people)
- 1 large eggplant
- Small bowl of non-dairy milk (about 100ml)
- A few heaping tablespoons of plain flour, on a small plate
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Honey (for drizzling)
- Slice the eggplant into thin rounds, about 2cm thick.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat until hot.
- Meanwhile, dip the eggplant slices into the bowl of milk so that both sides are covered.
- Transfer the slices onto the plate of flour and lightly cover both sides with it.
- Place the eggplant slices in the frying pan, making sure that all the slices are completely touching the bottom of the pan. You may need to do this in stages, as the eggplant will likely not all fit in the pan at once. Fry for a couple of minutes on each side, until the slices are crispy and cooked through.
- Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to help absorb the excess oil. Continue this process until all the slices have been cooked.
- To finish, drizzle a generous helping of honey over the slices (on both sides, I dare you). Serve hot as a side dish or simply as a tasty snack.
For other plant-based tapas that you can make from scratch, try the famous Catelonian pan con tomate or the classic patatas bravas.