What on earth are bombas? These delicious little appetizers are essentially crispy potato croquettes filled with a spiced mixture of meat and vegetables and topped with delicious, spicy sauce. Bombas are at the epitome of Barcelona’s tapas culture, and there is a fierce debate about who makes the best bombas in town. While the tasty, stuffed, mashed potato balls of deliciousness are a fun, Barcelona staple today (perfect with a pint of ice cold beer), they were created during a relatively rough time in Catalonia. Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia has historically been plagued with attacks and violent acts from anarchists and regional-nationalist groups. In the early 1900s, Barcelona became known as “the rose of fire” at which time the weapon of choice was a round iron ball that was filled with explosives and was lit with a string fuse. Typically, the attacks occurred in Barceloneta, a once-sketchy and now trendy waterfront neighborhood in Barcelona. It was in that neighborhood that a bar owner named Maria Pla, thought it would be humorous to create a dish to make light of the attacks occurring in the area. She created a tapa that resembled the anarchists’ weapon of choice – la bomba, or “the bomb”. On top of the round potato balls filled with meat, she even put a spicy, red sauce on top to resemble the bloodshed in the area. While bombas can be found in virtually any tapas bar in Barcelona, the underpinnings of their murky political origins have been largely forgotten.
Servings: 12 bombas
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 teaspoons salt
8 ounces ground pork, beef, chorizo, or a combination of all three
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small green pepper, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
5 ounces diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 hot paprika or cayenne pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
3 red peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded
2 garlic cloves
3 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground fennel
1 teaspoon hot paprika or cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup + 3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Place the potatoes in a large pot. Top with cold, salted water by at least one inch. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain.
To a large bowl, add the potatoes and 2 teaspoons salt. Mash well. Set aside and allow to cool.
In a large saucepan, add the ground meat and brown for five minutes. Add the onion, pepper, and garlic and fry for another minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for approximately five more minutes. Next, add the salt, cumin, oregano, and hot paprika or cayenne pepper. Continue cooking, uncovered, until all of the liquid has reduced (approximately 15 minutes). Remove from the heat, and put the meat in a separate bowl.
It’s time to build the bombas! To start, arrange your work area. On three plates, add flour to one, lightly beaten eggs to another, and panko bread crumbs to a third.
Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit.
For each bomba, take approximately 1/12th of the mashed potato mixture and stuff it with the meat mixture. I think it’s easiest to form a flat egg shape with the potatoes, add meat to the center, then fold the potatoes around the meat, forming a ball. Next, coat each bomba in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Place on a greased baking sheet.
Bake the bombas for 25 minutes in a 400 Fahrenheit oven, turning half way. Once the outside is golden brown and crispy, they are ready to serve.
While the bombas are baking, you can make the sauce. The sauce can also be made ahead of time by a day or two– it’s delicious with all sorts of things – with bombas, as a salad dressing, or as a marinade for chicken or pork.
To a food processor or blender, add the roasted red peppers, garlic, paprika, cumin, fennel, hot paprika or cayenne pepper, salt, sugar, olive oil, and vinegar. Puree until smooth, then season to taste.
To serve, spoon the spicy sauce over each bomba individually. If desired, place extra sauce out in a serving dish. Enjoy!