Pimientos de Padrón

Pimientos de Padrón

Nine times out of ten, you’ll get sweetness and crunch
when you bite into these fried whole peppers, but
every so often you’ll be met with a mouthful of fire.

The diminutive peppers made their way to Spain in the late 16th century, imported as seeds by Franciscan monks returning from Mexico. Theories abound on why some are spicy while others lack zing. Some say it’s the soil in the valleys around Padrón, where the peppers are cultivated, others put it down to southern Galicia’s weather. Most agree that timing is crucial, with peppers packing more punch when harvested in the later summer months.

You’ll need
500g (1lb) fresh Padrón
peppers, whole
Approx 1 cup (250mL) virgin
olive oil
Coarse salt to season

Cooking Method
1 Thoroughly rinse the peppers and pat dry with kitchen towel.
2 Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. You can alter the amount of oil used to suit your tastes but don’t be too sparing, the dish is ideally prepared with plenty of oil.
3 Add the peppers to the frying pan in batches, frying for 2–3 minutes on each side.
4 Turn the peppers when they just begin to brown and start to shrivel a little.
5 Once browned all over, place the cooked peppers on to a piece of kitchen towel to drain some of the oil.
6 Transfer to a clean plate and sprinkle with coarse salt.
7 Serve as one of a number of tapas dishes. The peppers can also be served as a side dish for a main meal.

Tasting notes
Showcasing a trio of quality ingredients, ‘Russian roulette peppers’ epitomise authentic, unpretentious Spanish cooking. It’s a classic tapa, and a rare vegetarian dish, usually ordered alongside portions of potatoes, meat, seafood and salad. The sweetness of the peppers provides a perfect contrast with the crunch of a coating of rock salt, while the pepperinfused oil left on the plate begs to be mopped up with bread. But the true allure of the peppers is their unpredictability. A simple Galician saying sums up what to expect: ‘Os pementos de Padrón – uns pican e outros non’ (Padrón peppers – some are hot and some are not); the only way to find out is to shove the whole thing into your mouth.

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