Padrón Peppers Pack a punch…well, now and then…

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These beauties known as pimientos de Padrón in Spanish are one of my favourite tapas. They are so simple to prepare and have a wonderful fresh earthy flavour and, now and then, – they say 1 in 30 – one has quite a chilli kick! Whether a given pepper ends up being hot or mild apparently depends on the amount of water and sunlight it receives during its growth. They are fun to eat and my family looks on it as a kind of tapas roulette – who will get the fiery pepper!

They originate from Galicia in North West Spain, in actual fact from Padrón near La Coruna – hence the name. The peppers are picked while their size is still small, starting as soon as mid-May. Traditionally, they were sold in the period going from late May until late October or, on occasion, even early November. However, the introduction of greenhouse plantations has made them available throughout the year. e get ours from a local market but Waitrose often sell them too. You can order them on line as well.

All you need to do is take your peppers and wash and dry them. I reckon about 8 each is a good number for a tapas – but it is up to you! Pop some olive oil in a frying pan and get it hot. Add the peppers to the pan and fry gently until they start to blister and brown slightly. About three minutes or so usually.

Sprinkle them with rock salt and serve immediately – great with a nice glass of ice cold beer, a cold dry sherry or a cold crisp dry white wine. Eat it all down to the stalk!

A friend of ours calls these ‘Pardon me peppers’ – if you eat too many – you will no doubt discover why !!

Valencian Vacation Exquisite Cuisine…

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Edible Highlights of my Recent Trip to Oliva, Spain

As a rather grey gloom descends over my part of Hampshire recalling my recent trip to Spain brings back wonderful feelings but also a little sadness that it is over! The food was fabulous and we met so many wonderful restauranteurs and waiters. The people of Oliva are serenely calm folk and their way of life is incredibly enviable. It was so cheap too.

I could not believe it. A beer and a tapa of jamon and bread with olive oil for example was a crazy 1 euro 50….

IMG_4525 This jamon was actually from Aragon – I bought 100gm straight afterwards for just 3 euros…mmmmm….!!!

The fish was delectable and we ate a lot. Anyway, here is a montage of shots of food and life where we stayed.

IMG_4466 First day shopping at the local supermarket -Mercadona – I could live in this shop!! –  5 -yes, 5 ladies on the fish counter alone! Our local supermarket here struggles to provide one! And this is about 4 times the size of my local fish counter – and we are an island!!

And so much choice it took my breath away…

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IMG_4524 Locally caught caracolas…

 

and squid a plenty…

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IMG_4522  And this was the indoor market – air conditioned and packed with amazing meat, fish and veg stalls as well as 2 great tapas bars.

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Click on the next picture to get the full panorama of this haven….

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IMG_4490 A medley of fish for supper one evening including beautiful boquerones…

And then a little more! …swordfish with pan fried octopus…stunning…

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IMG_4563  Sardines….

and succulent chipirones  IMG_4586

IMG_4460 Squid a la plancha….

A real favourite of mine was the exquisite empanadas in the tapas bars…one here is filled with morcilla and the other with spinach and tomato. IMG_4580

IMG_4531  I came across this too – never had it before – a mix of chorizo and morcilla – rich and succulent and a perfect accompaniment to a cold beer!

IMG_4533  My kids loved me making patatas braves for lunch by the pool…with a variety of meats cooked a la plancha….

IMG_4532.…and we all adore the pimentos padrón.

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Refreshing desserts too….

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All washed down with a variety of beverages from ice cold rosé…to cava…to one of my favourite beers…Estrella from Barcelona…as well as mojitos, martinis and dessert wines!

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And as well as all the fabulous array of food…I will miss my pool!

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And I bet you are thinking ..why has he not mentioned anything about the classic

Valencian paella??

Well, I had an amazing one at a truly wonderful restaurant called Ca Fran…but that meal and restaurant deserves a post of its own…so hang fire…it is on its way!

Hasta pronto!

Menorcan magic….

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Menorcan magic....

Back home…well until Tuesday when I am off to Burgundy for 5 days…and what a fab time we had on this wonderful island. This photo sums up why I love Spain…and this was just in a supermarket! Most of what we ate was tapas and bbq’s and fish…lots of fish. Anyway, just thought I would share some of my food snaps with you all. Hopefully, when I get back from France there will be time for some recipes! In the meantime, thank you all so much for your kind comments and wishes!

IMG_3656Delightful boquerones….ate so many of these it improved my swimming…!

IMG_3560I made this chicken fillet and lightly fried serrano ham salad for lunch one day…

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IMG_3712Sadly the chef did not sport the fabulous hat!

                                                                                                                                                                                           (above) I made a paella one evening and added some lightly pan fried chipirones

IMG_3718 A favourite fish – grouper – has the most mellow creamy mackerel flavour…

Top Tapas Types and Tips…and an Olé to Olives!

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 “Eat when you drink, drink when you eat” is the Spanish philosophy. Spanish men traditionally drink outside the home and rarely alone. Tapas are not meant to be a meal (although a racion is a substantial portion). One tapa per person and a different one with each drink is the idea, then everyone enjoys tasting and sharing. Tapas food is real food – good local ingredients presented with flair. I adore morcilla, a Spanish version of black pudding (and being Lancastrian by birth black pudding is in my DNA !), frequently served as a tapa. The morcilla of Burgos is the most renowned. I love wafer like slithers of manchego cheese served in a little olive oil, cubes of tortilla, patatas bravas, pan fried chorizo, slices of bread rubbed with tomato with a slice of serrano ham on top, garlicky prawns. Where ever you go there are different ideas and combinations; they are never boring. The name changes from region to region. Montaditos, pinchos (pintxos in Basque), banderillas, raciones, cazuelitas, pulguitas – all are variations on the same theme.  Chiefly though, there are three main types according to how easy they are to eat: cosas de picar, pinchos and cazuelas. Cosas de picar – meaning ‘things to nibble’ basically refers to finger food- in other words anything that can be easily picked up with fingers and thumb alone.

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(above) Ornate ceiling of a favourite tapas bar in Barcelona…

The supreme example of this is I guess, the mighty olive. They are so Spanish. They even look Spanish! Spain offers the punter an estimated 260 different varieties of olive, from the shimmering olive groves that spread over a considerable sweep of the country. While many of these varieties are grown for olive oil there is still a huge selection grown for the table, to be enjoyed as plain black or green olives or stuffed with a variety of tasty fillings as part of a tapas selection. Here are the key varieties that you will come across.

The Manzanilla olive is perhaps one of the best known Spanish olives. From the small town in Andalusia also famed for its sherry, this is a juicy green olive that is often pitted and stuffed with anchovies, pimento or garlic. This is also the olive most often used in martinis.

The Arbequina olive is a small earthy green olive grown predominantly in Catalonia with a delicate, mild, smoky flavour, very popular as a table olive. Then we have the Empeltre olive – a medium sized Spanish olive of a purplish black colour and elongated shape. It is often served soaked in sherry as a special tapas dish. It is also a popular olive for making a black olive spread (tapenade) with a wonderful deep flavour.

The Sevillano or Queen olive has large, plump, round fruit. It is mostly grown for the table rather than for oil and is generally brine cured and stuffed with a variety of fillings.

The Picual olive tree is the predominant variety for olive oil production in many areas of Southern Spain. The large black olives of the younger trees are excellent for curing as table olives with a peppery, firm flesh.

The Hojiblanca olive is mostly used for oil, but has an intense flavour as a table olive, with fruity and peppery overtones and a hint of nuttiness.

The Picolimon olive is round and juicy with a fresh citrus flavour that goes well with many other foods and is great in salads.

The Verdial olive is a large dark olive with a robust flavour, perfect for olive lovers who like a full spicy taste. These are just a very few of the amazing types on offer.

Today Spain is the world’s biggest producer of olives and olive oil, with vast swathes of olive groves spreading over southern Spain, especially Andalusia. It was the Phoenicians who first brought the olive tree to Spain, but the Ancient Romans are credited with establishing vast farms of olives, often owned by absentee landlords who lived back in Rome. Although Italy produced its own olives, the Romans relied on Spain as a major supplier of olive oil to the Empire. The Moorish invasion of Spain in the 8th century AD developed and sustained the olive industry in Southern Spain, as it declined in many other parts of the former Roman Empire, introducing new varieties and production methods. 800 years later when the last of the Moors left Spain and it was ruled by Catholic kings, a taste for olive oil was considered to indicate suspicious sympathies for the old regime and believe it or not, lard was re-established as the principle cooking fat in all but the southern regions of Spain. As a Mancunian raised with lard in his diet I can only admire the idea, but today, give me olive oil every time!

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(above) A favourite tapas bar of ours in Zaragoza…