Surprises in the fridge are almost always exciting. Unless they’re in the form of disintegrating lettuce-slush at the bottom of a salad bag – is there anything more gross? Probably.
Returning home from work the other day and making a beeline for the fridge, I opened it to find a bag of Padrón peppers beaming up at me. Not something I had purchased, but produce Matt had found in the supermarket near his work.
Any tapas lover worth the salt on their Padrón peppers will know all about the dish pimientos de Padrón, the only real way to treat these little green bites of delight.
It is blessed with simplicity as is so much of Spanish cooking, in that the dish in its entirety are these peppers fried whole with olive oil and then sprinkled with coarse sea salt. They’re the first things I request when placing my order in a tapas restaurant (without even needing to locate them on the menu) and Fino in Fitzrovia do them deserved justice.
But it’s only in restaurants I’ve ever eaten them, as until now I’ve been unsuccessful in sourcing these little Galician peppers. And the purist in me will be damned if I was going to attempt the dish with anything but.
A solitary tapa consumed in isolation goes against the very essence of what it means to eat tapas – tasting many different flavours, sampling small amounts of a wide range, enjoying and sharing with others. And so from this little bag of capsicums an entire Spanish feast was born.
A Spanish Tapas Feast
The below dishes all served in one sitting will feed two hungry people generously. If you’re cooking for more, just scale up the ingredients. I’ve ordered them according to how long they take to cook, starting with the longest. They are all incredibly simple to make with very few ingredients. Some (such as the above pimientos de Padrón) require nothing more than a quick fry.
For almost all the dishes you will need olive oil so do ensure you have a good amount to hand before you begin. Salt and pepper goes without saying.
At any one time you will need four hob rings on the go – one for the chickpeas and chorizo, one for a griddle or saucepan for the seafood, a small saucepan for the tortilla, a final pan to first cook the potatoes and then fry the peppers.
My suggestion in terms of timing to serve everything hot and simultaneously (or as close as one can get to that) is as follows:
Earlier in the day
- Marinate the prawns and keep in the fridge
- Toast the almonds and set aside
- Create your topping for the mushrooms
- Prepare your squid, asparagus and peppers so they’re ready to be cooked and keep in separate bowls in the fridge
- Get the chickpeas and chorizo on first as they’ll need half an hour. Pre-heat the oven and grill
- Finely slice the potatoes for the tortilla and get those cooking
- Plate up any of the no-cook tapas and take to the table
- When the potatoes are done, remove and set aside. Drain the oil from the pan ready for the peppers later
- Put the mushrooms and asparagus in the oven to cook. When they have done so, leave the asparagus in there to stay warm but turn the oven off. Top the mushrooms with the cheese mixture and place under a hot grill. When complete, leave under the grill to stay warm but turn the grill off
- Now give your full attention to the tortilla. Leave in the pan when cooked until ready to serve. If the chickpeas are now soft, turn the heat off but leave the lid on to keep them warm.
- Whack the prawns and squid on the griddle right at the end, which will take a couple of minutes to cook. Fry your peppers in the previous potato pan at the same time.
- Plate everything up, relax and enjoy
Garbanzos con Chorizo – Chickpeas with Chorizo
100g of cooking chorizo
200g canned chickpeas
2 tbsp tomato puree
Pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
- If a paper skin comes off easily from the meat then remove it. If it doesn’t, don’t bother
- Chop the chorizo into 2cm chunks
- Add to a dry pan on medium heat and cook until form to bite and slightly crisp
- Add drained chickpeas and stir for a couple of minutes
- Add the tomato puree and enough good quality passata to just cover the chickpeas
- Season with salt, pepper and a good pinch of paprika. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly
- Cover and cook for 30 minutes on a low heat
- Pour any condensed water that has formed on the lid back into the pan and stir
- Cook until the chickpeas are soft and the passasta has reduced to a thick sauce
- Serve hot
Tortilla – Spanish Omelette
1 small King Edward / Maris Piper potato
¼ small white onion
- Peel the potato and slice finely (approximately 5mm) – a V-slicer will do this wonderfully and in seconds. Thinly slice the onion aswell
- Lightly fry the slices of potato in enough extra virgin olive oil to just cover them and season with salt. Move them about regularly so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan
- When the potato is soft, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper
- Add the onions to the oil and fry gently until caramalised, soft and golden. Remove with the slotted spoon and also drain on kitchen paper
- Remove most of the oil from the pan but leave a little, enough to coat the base.
- Using a fork, lightly whisk the eggs and then gently mix in the cooked potato and onions, and add a little salt
- Pour the mixture into a hot pan set on low – medium heat and spread the onions and potato out evenly. Keep scraping the egg away from sides and into the centre whilst cooking, to stop it sticking and to create room for raw egg to occupy and cook
- After a few minutes the bottom will be brown and the whole tortilla almost set, but still with uncooked egg on top. At this stage, get a spatula under the tortilla and carefully flip it over so the uncooked side is now face down
- Tip This is a little tricky and if the bottom isn’t brown, it will break up and become a mess. To aid the flip, tip your saucepan on its side while you gently ease the tortilla out onto your spatula to flip
- Cook for further 10 secs to ensure a runny middle and serve immediately
This recipe makes a mean tortilla. Who knew eggs, potato and onions could make something so entirely delicious – no doubt something to do with all the wonderful frying.. Either way, this was one of my favourite things on the table.
Gambas a la Plancha – Grilled Prawns
160g pack of fresh prawns in shell
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
Extra virgin olive oil
Tip you can purchase the prawns either already cooked (pink) or raw (grey) – it makes little difference to the cooking time.
- Thoroughly rinse the prawns, drain and place in a bowl
- Add the garlic, a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper and mix so the prawns are well coated. Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge for a few hours
- Tip If you fancy a bit of heat, you can also add some finely chopped red chilli to this mix
- When ready to cook, heat a frying pan or griddle on medium heat and place the prawns on the base so they sizzle
- Cook each side 1-2 minutes until they turn pink (if cooking raw prawns) and then brown.
- Serve with a squeeze of lemon and chopped parsley
Pimientos de Padrón – Fried Padrón Peppers
130g pack of Padrón peppers
Coarse sea salt
Olive oil (you can use the leftover oil from the tortilla)
- Put the peppers in a bowl and coat with a little oil
- Fry in a hot pan until blistered black and soft
- Sprinkle with good quality sea salt to serve and eat while hot
Champiñones Rellenos – Stuffed Mushrooms
2 x portabello mushrooms
100g Manchego cheese, grated
Small handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped (including stalks)
1/2 clove of garlic, crushed
- Place the mushrooms on a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper
- Bake in hot oven for 10 minutes until brown and soft
- In the meantime, combine the parsley, cheese and garlic in a bowl
- Top each mushroom with this mixture and put under a hot grill until bubbling
- Serve immediately
Calamares a la Plancha – Grilled Squid
2 x prepared squid bodies (approximately 200g)
Juice and zest from one unwaxed lemon
Salt and pepper
- Thoroughly rinse the squid and pat dry
- Butterfly to open up the body into one large piece and score diagonally on one side with a sharp knife to create a diamond pattern, but make sure you don’t go all the way through the flesh
- After scoring, cut each body into quarters
- Place the squid into a bowl and coat with a little olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and generous helpings of salt and pepper
- On a hot griddle or frying pan, place the squid scored side up and cook for a minute. Turn them over and cook for another minute.
- Turn them back to scored side up again and they will begin to curl up – squeeze with tongs to encourage them to do so
- Cook for further minute until lightly browned
- Serve immediately with a sprinkling of capers and more lemon
Espárragos con almendras tostadas – Asparagus with toasted almonds
100g young asparagus spears
50g skinned and blanched whole almonds
- Gently toast the almonds in a dry pan on medium heat, constantly tossing them so they don’t burn
- When they have taken on a golden colour, remove and set aside
- In the meantime, coat the asparagus in a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper
- Place into a hot oven for five minutes or griddle until soft and cooked.
- Serve the almonds and asparagus together
In addition to the above, we decorated the table with a few other no-cook tapas dishes including: roasted artichokes, fresh anchovies, mild noceralla olives, ripe tomatoes, sliced Manchego, and jamón ibérico de bellota.
Altogether, an entirely heavenly Spanish spread. And a huge thanks to Matt who cooked it all this evening.