One of the things I love about tapas is that they’re often so easy to prepare. Slice a chorizo, pour over red wine, stick in pan, reduce, eat. Slice some manchego and quince cheese. Eat. Place olives in small bowl. Eat. Put prawns in dish with olive oil, garlic and chillies. Make hot. Eat. Procure a ham. Slice. Eat.
Given that tapas are there primarily as a salty accompaniment to your drink, these simple, clear flavours make a lot of sense. The quality of raw ingredients in preparations like this becomes all-important, and often the best of those raw ingredients are the seasonal ones. Enter the Padron pepper.
These little green jewels are a deliciously sweet, fresh-tasting pepper which comes ready in the summer. They are, for the most part, delightfully mild – but one in every ten or so has a strong chilli kick. There is nothing better than a dish that engages your sense of danger. The Spanish have a saying: Pimiento de Padrón, pequeño pero matón. Translated very approximately, this means: “Padron pepper – teensy-weensy thug”.
To serve two as a nibble with drinks or as a starter, you’ll need:
150-200g Padron peppers (see below for suppliers)
5 tablespoons olive oil
A generous sprinkling of sea salt
Heat the olive oil in a large pan to a medium temperature, and drop the peppers in. Stir the peppers in the oil for about four minutes, until their skins are blistering. Remove the peppers to bowls with a slotted spoon, sprinkle over plenty of salt, and serve piping hot. To eat, hold the peppers by the stem and bite off the whole fruit. Keep a glass of something cold to hand in case you get one of the very spicy ones.
It’s worth getting your hands on some Padron peppers at this time of year, when they are at their very best. I’ve seen them in Waitrose, but if you don’t have a local branch you can also order them online in the UK at Little Green Men, where they have some great chilli products.