P-perk up a piquillo
Fire-roasted and hand-peeled Pimientos del Piquillo are a unique specialty of Lodosa, a village in Navarra.After roasting over beechwood, and while still hot, the peppers are individually skinned, cored and seeded by the local ladies using only a cloth and a small paring knife. Next the peeled peppers are trimmed with great precision so that they remain whole and unbroken. Finally, at the end of the line, they are packed very carefully in the jar in their own natural juice, without ever coming in contact with either water or brine. No seasoning, no water, no brine added - they are Piquillo peppers, pure and simple.Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - so be careful not to bargain hunt! They are very expensive due to the cost of artesan production, but it would be a shame to be put off by this as they are worth every penny. Only Piquillo peppers with the tightly monitored D. O. Lodosa label are guaranteed to be grown in the Lodosa countryside, from the unique variety of peppers and have been produced using the basic artisan process.If you are London based you can buy them from Brindisa,( also online shopping ) Garcia in the Portobello Road or other good delicatessens and specialist sections of some supermarkets. In the run up to Christmas, when time is of the essence, this makes an easy and delicious supper dish. As a starter its presentation on the plate is a compliment to the season, and as a main course it leaves you asking for more.
Piquillo peppers stuffed with tuna, onions and mashed potatoserves 6 as a starter or 4 as a main course 1 tin of artesan piquillo peppers ( Navarrico or Bujanda )750 g floury potatoes, King Edwards or Maris Piper peeled and boiled (approx. 4 medium potatoes)1 tin of Ortiz tuna2 Spanish onions sliced into thin ringsa very thick slice of butter ( about 75g )a few large sprigs of thyme Salt and pepper Extra butter for the mashed potato and for greasing the oven dish Melt the butter in a heavy based pan. Add the onions with a sprinkling of salt and cook slowly over a low heat.It will take 30 minutes or more for them to colour, though they should not brown. Meanwhile boil the potatoes, drain them and mash them adding the extra butter and then fold in the cooked onions.Check the seasoning and allow the mix to cool slightly.With a small spoon, carefully spoon the potato mixture into the peppers, pushing it gently right down to the tip of the pepper. Do not overfill as the peppers will split. Grease an ovenproof dish and lay the peppers in it side by side. Heat in a moderate oven for 10 minutes. Serve with a side salad of capers, finely diced tomatoes and parsley. To make your starter plate a tad more tempting try a brandade filling. This is a puree of salt cod, olive oil and cream which is a speciality of Languedoc and Provence. Similar preparations are made in many countries where dried cod is enjoyed, so a sure fire item on Portuguese Christmas menus.Venetian Baccala mantecato is one of the best known. However, most recipes include, even in France,a potato purée, although this is not a true brandade.
Piquillo peppers stuffed with brandade serves 4
12 canned piquillo peppers
For the brandade
225 g salt cod, reconstituted in cold water for 24 hours
1/2 onion peeled
2 sprigs flat leaf parsley
85ml double cream
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling115g floury potatoes, King Edwards or Maris Piper peeled and boiled
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
pinch of grated nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
freshly ground white pepperlemon juice
Method1. To make the brandade, place the cod in a saucepan. Add 100ml of the milk, enough water to cover the cod, the onion half and parsley sprigs.
2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside and allow the salt cod to cool in the liquor.
3. Once the salt cod is sufficiently cool to handle, take it out and discard the liquor. Flake the salt cod into a bowl, discarding any skin and bones.
4. Heat the remaining milk and the cream in a saucepan. In another saucepan, heat up the olive oil.
5. Mash the boiled potatoes with the garlic and mix well into the salt cod. Beat in the hot olive oil and creamy milk until the mixture forms a smooth, thick paste. Season with nutmeg, cayenne and freshly ground white pepper. Add lemon juice to taste.
6. Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5.
7. Stuff the piquillo peppers with the brandade mix and place in a roasting tray.
8.Put the peppers in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until heated through.
9. Meanwhile, mix together the capers, parsley and tomato. Toss with the olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
10. Divide the salad among 4 serving plates. Top each salad portion with 3 stuffed piquillo peppers. Garnish with more parsley, drizzle with olive oil and serve.