Sunday, 30 September 2012

Padron Peppers Tapas

One of the best things about having a cooking obsession, is trawling around food shops and markets on a search for the weird and wonderful.

My fascination for tapas started in a Spanish restaurant in the village of Caleta in a small forgotten windswept cove in Tenerife. The cafe sits atop a rocky precipice overlooking a particularly rugged part of the Atlantic coast, and is fairly well known for its fabulously fresh wide selection of authentic tapas and its main course cousin the ration. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the place.

It was there that I first had a plate of Padron peppers - the cousin of the chilli (but not too distant, since about 1 in 20 of them is a spicy timebomb) - to enjoy with a glass of the local wine. What a find! How on earth could a fried pepper sprinkled with sea salt be such a gastronomic treat? I thought that maybe my love of such a simple dish had more to do with the stunning surroundings, the strong wine or the holiday vibe. Until now.

Mrs Ribeye and I found a rare pack of 'Padrons' (as I affectionately call them) at: La Plaza Delicatessen, Portobello Road, London, W10, while we wandered through Portobello Market last Saturday. Of course, we had to pop in to Makan for lunch, but on the way home we happened past La Plaza and I wasted no time in picking up a pack from the vegetable counter. Having offered a timid 'gracias' to the shopkeeper and then moronically repeating 'de nada' when he replied to my thanks, I decided never to attempt to speak in a foreign tongue on home soil again.

So, were the peppers as good as I remember? Er, maybe even better actually. Our good friends Ophelia and Kumar came over for dinner last night and I made Cassoulet (I'll post the recipe soon Click the link!) as a main course and these Padrons as a snack with pre-dinner drinks. Maybe because I used less oil than our Spanish friends, or maybe because I used a ridged grill pan to give them a slightly charred taste or something, but they were a delight. Kumar and I are chilli-heads so anything that looks like a chilli is going to please us no-end. Mrs Ribeye is a chilli-hater, and so these were not her favourite (although I'm not sure why), and Ophelia seemed non-committal. So maybe they're a boy's thing.

Dessert was my Apple Strudel Samosas. The whole dinner was well-balanced and I was happy with the result. Oh, one thing about the peppers: They're a bit pricey. £3.75 for a 400g punnet, means that the cost per serving is £1. I suppose even a return Easyjet flight for the pepper-carrier from Tenerife doesn't come so cheap these days. Gracias indeed.

Serves 4 (tapas-sized servings)


400g Padron peppers
Sunflower/vegetable oil for frying
Coarse sea salt

In a blisteringly hot grill pan, fry the peppers in the oil until slightly charred. Sprinkle with seas salt and serve immediately with cold beer or wine.

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