Piquillo Red pepper prepared this way are a very typical side dish to serve with steak back home (in the Basque Country).
Various areas of the country use hot ones (in La Rioja, they have Alegria Riojana, a regional chilli that should be tasted!) but generally, it is the sweet variety that is most commonly used.
If you are attempting to prepare these outside Spain, you have two choices, you can buy nice red peppers such as romano peppers in the supermarket (piquillo are not available here), skin them or you can buy a jar of piquillo peppers, skinned, and do it a bit quicker. There are of course other Mediterranean countries that have their own version and as such, a trip to the shops will offer you many options these days)
Should you decide to skin them yourself, ideally, you would do so over a bbq outside because the process creates smoke. But as not everyone have a bbq, do feel free to use the gas hob of your kitchen where you can burn and remove the pepper’s skin even in winter. (Please make sure there is good ventilation in your kitchen, in order to avoid setting off the smoke alarm.)
Once you decide which one you go for, you will need:
3 spoons of olive oil (i like the 0.4 acidity one rather than the virgin one… i.e. second press rather than first)
3 garlic cloves (purple ones from Spain suit the dish best)
500 gr of red peppers (see note)
salt (Maldon if possible)
(note) If you opt for the jar: Please make sure that you look up what the “dry weight” is.
Cut the peppers in strips.
Heat the olive oil in a pan, and roast slowly a few pink garlic cloves (I normally use 3 large ones) with the skin on. This is to release the flavour slower and protect them from getting burnt and bitter. Do not burn the oil. If you do, start again with new fresh oil, after washing the pan well…
If you like food with a bit of a kick, you could add one or two dry chillies. (I get my pepperoncino at Gazzano’s in Farringdon.)
Do not burn the oil either. If you do, start again with new fresh oil, after washing the pan well…please. ( burnt oils are not good for your health) When the garlic cloves feel soft, add the peppers.
Cook the peppers in low heat and, with a wooden spoon, move them every now and then to ensure they all cook evenly and infused with the garlic oil… Note that a couple of occasions, I have felt I needed a drop and extra spoon of oil at this stage… check.
Be mindful that the peppers tend to lose water and thin out as they cook, keep a close eye to avoid burning them…
The salt goes at the end, as a topping only.
Where in San Sebastian , you may wonder,you can enjoy this lovely pimiento?
Casa Urola, one of my favourites in town for starding up pintxos and a sit down meal
Bartolo Etxea, the piquillos are served as tapas (racion)
Asador Portuetxe , a bit off the beaten track, offers you a chance to sample these with an ox steak (chuleton de buey)
Photograph by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Recipe by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
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