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Gluten free Spanish tapas: Marinated mussels sprinkled with pomegranate


Seasonal Paleo and gluten free recipes 

Gluten free Spanish tapas: Marinated mussels sprinkled with pomegranate

Laura | Lau Sunday cooks


This simple word means so much to me, as it reminds me of beautiful summers and having great fun and laughs with all my friends.

It’s part of the Spanish culture and is a social activity that perfectly defines the lifestyle of Spain. It even led to us creating our own special verb for the word: “tapear”, which means “go round the bars eating tapas”. Without doubt, the art oftapear consists of knowing the really good places to eat, and the tricks to getting the waiter to serve you really great quality tapas.  

Marinated mussels sprinkled with pomegranate| Lau Sunday cooks

If you don’t know yet, tapas are a wide variety of appetisers or starters made up from the Spanish cuisine, ranging from grilled shrimp with garlic, sliced chorizo in cider to sautéed mushrooms.

But, what about gluten free Spanish tapas? Are these suitable for people with intolerance to gluten? The answer is of course yes

While it’s well known that in Spain, bread is traditionally served as an accompaniment to food, the Spanish cuisine is one of the richest and most varied of all the world.  All of our food is fresh and flavourful, made from locally grown ingredients  combined to make original, healthy and gluten free Spanish tapas dishes with very few boundaries.  To name just a few, the common Spanish tapas that you can find free of grains include the following:

  • Cold tapas made out of vegetables pickled in vinegar
  • Small green peppers fried in olive oil
  • Octopus, usually served in the oil in which it was cooked
  • Marinated mussels 

Not all Spanish food is called tapas

Yep. Almost every region, city town and village has its own special variety of small bites of Spanish flavours.  It’s a common mistake to think these are all simply different types of Spanish tapas food.  In fact there are many different styles and these are determined by the area of Spain you are visiting, and the way that food is served.  Some you may of heard of, some you may not, but here are a couple that I like;

Racion (ration), or half ration, is a small dish usually shared by groups of friends. It’s a good way to have lunch or dinner at a very affordable price, being  that the average price is typically just 4€ each and there is always lots to go around.  


Pintxos: If you are in the North of Spain, you will often see this typical style. They are similar to tapas but are usually more elaborate and have a stick in them, hence its name comes from the verb “to pierce". The price may vary slightly depending on how elaborate they are, but normally you should pay between 1€ and 3€ each.  The fun bit is paying the bill, as it is calculated on how many sticks are left on you plate. 


Free tapa: So this is my favourite !...  It’s usually a small amount of food served in a small dish or plate (tapa). It is most commonly offered in the south of Spain, Andalusian.  Although you will find free tapa in many other places throughout the rest of Spain.   

I spent many of my past family holidays in Granada, where my dad was born, and so I have a great deal of fond and funny memories going ‘bar-hopping’ and enjoying the southern lifestyle.  That’s the Spanish equivalent of a traditional English pub crawl.  But the difference is in Spain, when you ask for a small drink (the most advisable being a beer or wine), the waiter will give you a tapa with it ... for free ! 

So do I now need to explain to you why I always ask for small drinks...?!   Well, just in case, that first tapa you are given will wet your appetite, and then, of course, you will want another one more, then another, and another.  I still remember one day having tapas with some friends and one of them didn’t like beer or wine either, so she was drinking coke after coke.  But as it was so gassy, it filled her up so she had to stop eating. It was so funny...  and good for me as I got to eat her tapa ! 

In some bars, you will be able to ask for the tapa you want, as they are often displayed in glass displays across the bar or listed on a huge blackboard.  In other places, the waiter will give you a tapa according to the number of drinks: the more drinks you are having, the bigger the tapa will be and the better the quality. So, for the first and second rounds of tapa are usually something small like a plate of olives, hot green peppers or a small slice of Spanish tortilla.  However, once you get to the forth or fifth round your tapa could be marinated beef, pork skewers or even a hamburger with some chips. Massive!  Unfortunately there’s a small downside as this system isn’t very suitable for people like me, as I get drunk very quickly after just a few drinks.


So, now that you have a clear idea about the culture of tapear and the different types and styles, I ‘m pleased to share with you the first gluten free Spanish tapa of this blog: Mussels marinate with pomegranate.

This recipe starts with juicy mussels, all marinated in red wine with red onions, carrots and paprika and sprinkled with pomegranate. A sophisticated cold tapa ideal as a single serving for any occasion.

Hope you like it!

Marinated mussels sprinkled with pomegranate|Lau Sunday cooks
Marinated mussels sprinkled with pomegranate | Lau Sunday cooks


Serves 4-6 


1 k. mussels, scrubbed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons minced onion

2 tablespoons minced carrot

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme

2 teaspoons finely chopped chives

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (Pimentón de la Vera)

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

  1.  In a large saucepan, bring to a boil water, then cook the mussels until they start to open, 20 to 30 seconds.

  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a bowl. Remove the mussels from their shells; discard any mussels that don't open.

  3. Cover and refrigerate the mussels. Strain the remaining mussel juices into a small bowl.

  4.  In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot and garlic and cook over low - medium heat for about 4 minutes or until softened.

  5. Add the mussel juices and cook over medium heat until the liquid has reduced by half. 

  6. Stir in the rosemary, thyme, chives, sherry vinegar, orange zest and Spanish paprika, and and season with salt. Transfer the marinade to a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes, until cold.

  7.  Pour the marinade over the mussels, cover and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 8 hours.

  8. When ready to eat, spoon the mussels into small bowls and top with the parsley. 

By Laura - Lau Sunday cooks    -   Recipe from Jose Andres