Tapas experimentation

After enjoying a visit to the Nelson branch of the Mediterranean Food Company, I had intended to visit their shop in Christchurch, which also includes a café, for quite a while now but, somehow, it just never seemed to happen. But when I did finally make it I had a very pleasant afternoon, browsing through the shelves of this Aladdin’s Cave, piled high with ingredients from the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

I had to limit myself – being broke again! – to just two things which I hadn’t been able to source anywhere else: a bottle of pomegranate molasses and a bag of smoked Spanish paprika. As I slowly wandered towards the counter to pay for my purchases, I was distracted at every turn by glorious spices, unusual pastas, varieties of risotto rice and polenta galore, piles of Amaretti biscuts and beautiful boxes of Turkish Delight. My attention, though, was eventually caught by a sign which had details on it about a Tapas Evening taking place at the Mediterranean Food Company and Café in the near future. Being a sucker for any kind of cookery demonstration, it wasn’t long before I signed up for the class, especially since it was only $20 – a veritable bargain.

I was even more convinced of that when I arrived (a half an hour early!) on the night in question. As I sat, glass of sangria in hand, and waited for the others to turn up, I had a good opportunity to observe my surroundings. Blackboards above the food counter displayed the menu of the day – Lumaconi Pasta with Snails, Garlic and a Marsala Cream Sauce ($14.50), Cardoon Soup with Basil Pesto ($10.50) and a Tapas Platter which included almonds, olives, chorizo, Tortilla and Salsa Romesco for $14.95. Gelati and sorbetti are all made in-house, and the range available included Peach and Amaretto Sorbet, Chocolate Gelato and a dairy free Almond Milk Sorbet.

People started arriving in ones and twos, mostly women who had come with friends. The atmosphere was relaxed, helped by the sangria on offer, and everyone was happy to chat amongst themselves while chef Nik Mavromatis worked at a table in front of the group. Mavromatis was an engaging demonstrator, working his way competently through the printout of recipes that was distributed at the start of the evening.Starting with an explanation of where the word tapas came from, he moved swiftly on to their little brother, pintxos (small tapas) and assembled several skewers of caperberries, pickled chillies and pickled wild onions for distribution among his eager observers. This was just the first of many tastings we received as Mavromatis demonstrated how to make piquant Salsa Romesco, addictive Almendras Fritas or Fried Almonds, and a deliciously savoury Chorizo, Pepper and Bean Stew.

As he worked, Mavromatis introduced us to quality produce, passing smoked paprika around so that we could all smells it, letting us feel an organic lemon, talking about his organic vegetable suppliers – Tuahiwi Organic Garden – and his free-range eggs which he gets from the Richmond Fellowship at West Melton.It was a very enjoyable – and nibblish! – evening. I’ll be trying some of Nik’s recipes out at home and definitely watching out for future classes.The Mediterranean Food Company and Café is at 322 Tuam Street in Christchurch.



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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7 Responses

  1. Barbara says:

    If only Auckland offered such well priced demo’s!

  2. Caroline says:

    I know Barbara, I was amazed at the price! Especially, as I discovered on the night, that $20 covered a couple of glasses of wine along with substantial tastings of each of the eight dishes that Nik prepared. I must admit that I did end up spending another $10 on some good tinned tomatoes and tinned new potatoes to use in Tapas experiments, as well as a big bag of those yummy (although Italian) Amaretti biscuits. I just had to steer myself away from the Spanish wine section!

  3. Cuz Carina says:

    I have always been wary of most tinned vegetables. Probably an irrational fear, but the only ones I can handle are tomatoes (of course) and artichokes. Will you let me know how the tapas with tinned potatoes go, and if there are other tinned vegetables that are good?

  4. Neva says:

    Bring on the tapas recipes! My favourite meals are those where i can pick at lots of little dishes so ive always wanted to make tapas – what has put me off is the thoughts of perparing lots of little dishes!Can you give some advice on a selection that would be good for sharing with friends and lots of wine but not leave me sweaty and irritable at the cooker?

  5. Caroline says:

    Carina: being a potato-hater for years, I was amazed to discover that I really liked the tortilla that Nik made with the tinned new potatoes so I grabbed a few on my way out the door so I could try it at home. Although I haven’t – yet!

    Neva: the food that we got during the demo was my perfect supper. Lots of little dishes, with pauses in between, and I was the only one at my table who liked olives so the marinated ones that Nik prepared didn’t even have to be shared! I’m definitely going to do a piece on Tapas soon and will let you know when it’s up. And it’s not all about preparing little dishes – I think the easiest way of doing it is to make a big dish of something and then just serve it in little dishes.

  6. Nik Mavromatis says:

    Hi this is Nik from Mediterranean Foods in Christchurch. I have just been doing a new website for us at http://www.mediterraneanfoods.co.nz and was wondering if you could replace the links. Hope Ireland isnt too cold ( it was 38 here yesterday! too hot!) and let us know when you are back in townCheers Nik

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi NikDo you know that you have become well known in my family? My mother is still amazed that you actually got me to eat potatoes! (You can read more about my former hatred of potatoes here). After your tapas class I made thattortilla several times and quickly progressed to the stage that I’ll eat them in anything, done any way. 30 years my mother spent trying to interest me in potatoes and you did it in a couple of very interesting and entertaining hours. Are you still running classes at Mediterranean Foods?I’ve updated that link for you now. Will be sure and call in when I’m next back in Christchurch. Caroline

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