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cooking Pimientos de Padron

a panful of Pimientos de Padron

So we cooked and ate them, following the instructions provided by Elizabeth Luard in her delectable tome, The Cooking of Spain and Portugal: A Regional Celebration, which great good fortune allowed me to pick up for £4.99 at tkmaxx the other week (possibly to the great relief of my local library, having clung to their copy for the last 4 months, post-it marking every other page and the prospect of returning the thing increasingly unthinkable with each passing day).  Whichever way wangled, it’s definitely a keeper.

Ms Luard’s food writing is a joy to read with her frequent canny little asides, vignettes and scene settings before the directions, giving just that little bit of extra information you need to make the thing properly, that is with the right attitude and in good spirits.  And a cook in a good mood always, always, always makes a dish taste more authentic and delicious; the right spirit is just as important as the right ingredients, temperature and timing.  A glass of champagne helps, too, by the way.

Here’s how to set off your Sunday afternoon with a bang:

  • 200g Pimientos de Padrón
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • Maldon salt flakes

Rinse and dry the peppers, but leave whole, stalks intact: you’ll be needing them later.

Grab a heavy based, preferably cast-iron, frying pan that can just about accommodate the peppers in one layer.  They will shrink a little as they cook, but you will want each pepper to have contact with the hot oil.

Heat the oil in the pan over medium-high heat until a pepper will sizzle, then tip in the rest.  Cook over high heat for a couple of minutes or so until the skins are blistered and browned in places (you’ll hear them pop and see them hop, which is fun), then turn the heat to low and cook gently another 2 or 3 minutes until the peppers are soft. You may find a splatter guard comes in handy.

Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and serve sprinkled with salt and some decent bread on the side to mop up any juices.  To eat, hold each pepper by the stem and bite off the flesh.

Legend tells that every nth pepper is super-hot – estimates vary from 1 in 5 to 1 in 30 – which is why this dish is often referred to as Spanish roulette: apocryphal hype I pooh-poohed – until KABOOM!!  I got one.   Ouch.  But there’s nothing to fear for a chile lover; anyone who likes a bit of heat shouldn’t need to call the fire brigade – a quick sip is all that’s required to carry on until they’re all gone.  The delightful thing about these peridot nuggets is the scintillating mouth mosaic made by the flickering interplay between their subtle variations in flavour and heat; that plus the occasional firecracker.

Terrific tapas? I should coco loco.

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I mean this most sincerely, it’s not some cheap trick to lure porn-surfers to my food blog; why would I want to do that?  It’s wordplay on Pigs in Blankets but to satisfy those at the back, here’s an uncut image (for illustration purposes only, please) from the mind-boggling immeatchu blog.

Not sorry to disappoint, I’m referring to the sexiest pasta sauce of all, Puttanesca; a store-cupboard classic from Naples.   Puttana being Italian for whore, puttanesca means whore-style: naturally there is some debate about how it acquired this intriguingly salty name.  It’s all true no doubt, but as importantly it’s a delicious dish to give hunger a good seeing-to and a pushover to pull a few ingredients from fridge and cupboard for the laziest gal – or guy – in town.
raw puttanesca on olive oil dough

Or on a languorous afternoon, do as I did: put a bit of lead in the pencil of some elderly olive oil dough and wrap it around puttanesca’s uncooked ingredients for a putta nuda al forno: salaciously delicious – or deliciously salacious…just try twisting your tongue around that.

Putta Nuda al fornoputtanesca calzone

  • 2 salt-cured anchovies, filleted
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, sliced
  • 10 Niçoise olives, stoned
  • 1 TBS capers, drained
  • dried oregano
  • a fistful of olive oil dough

Shape, strew and scatter as in first pic, stretch the long edges of dough over the filling to meet in the middle and press to seal.  Bake in a hot oven about ½ an hour, basting beforehand and after 15 minutes with oil from the tomatoes.  Cool slightly, slice and serve.

Although there are acceptable variations to the cooked sauce, never have I encountered as total a travesty as at a certain trattoria in Vieux Nice, to which I not-entirely-ironically refer as Casa della Disasta: according to our waitress, their pasta puttanesca contained no olive, neither anchovy nor caper!  Incidentally, on top of that surprise, the line at the till was not for takeaways but disgruntled diners queuing to question the errors on their bills – all in the management’s favour, natch.  Make of that what you will.

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Yes, you read that right – oak smoked flour from Bacheldre Watermill – and with that great packaging, how could I resist?

Actually it’s oak smoked stoneground strong malted blend flour and as I don’t share the English predilection for malty bits in my bread I thought my first loaf rather ho-hum. The smokiness was enjoyable though, and quite a bit cheaper than setting up a wood-fired oven.

Possible solution: I sifted out those malty bits and fed them to the birds then made a fresh batch of dough, but the resultant loaf was still too worthy, in a knitted oatmeal kind of way, albeit with a crust to stop traffic (literally).

My solution: blend it with regular flour at a 1:5 ratio.  Result: a whiff of wood smoke and wheatiness with an excellent rise.  Better than saving up for a wood-fired oven any day.

£2.85 for 1.5kg from Waitrose

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