couple of years ago, I spent a few cloudy days in Extremadura, Spain. We visited a chilli farm and saw the kilns in which the peppers were smoked, their intoxicating sweet aroma filling the air. Once cooled and ground, these bronzed chillies become smoked paprika, or pimentón. This is a spice I reach for on an almost daily basis to add smoke, sweetness and a piquant hum to dishes. As a vegetarian, I find it particularly useful; it adds a depth of flavour that’s otherwise quite elusive without meat.
Romesco sauce pictured above
This Catalan classic can be used in myriad ways – see below for ideas.
Prep 10 min
Cook 15 min
Makes About 500g
100g blanched almonds
50g blanched hazelnuts
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
2 slices good stale white bread (about 40g), torn into chunks
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 × 220g jar roasted red peppers, drained
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 small dried chilli, crumbled, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 generous pinch saffron strands, soaked in 1 tbsp water (optional)
1 tbsp tomato puree
Salt and black pepper
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas 6.
Scatter the nuts on a baking tray and roast for 10-15 minutes, until golden. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a pan and fry the bread, until golden brown all over. Add the garlic and paprika, cook for another minute, then remove from the heat.
Leaving the oven on, transfer the nuts and toasted bread to a food processor. Add the peppers and blitz to a coarse paste – you still want a bit of texture.
Tip the lot into a mixing bowl, stir in the oil, vinegar, chilli, saffron and its soaking liquid, and tomato puree. Season to taste and adjust the flavours if need be: romesco is about a balance of punchy flavours. Too thick? Add a little water. Too sweet? Add a little vinegar. Too sharp? Add a little oil to soften. Leave to one side to mellow.
Ways to use romesco
• It’s traditionally eaten with griddled or roast calçots (a variety of spring onion) or baby leeks
• Spread on toast and topped with a slick of goat’s cheese for a quick snack
• As a dip for baby carrots and spring vegetables
• Piled on to roast vegetables for extra flavour
• Tossed through cooked pasta with fried greens
• Stirred into a bowl of brown rice and topped with a poached egg
• With your morning eggs.
• With flatbread and feta for a quick, simple lunch
• As a marinade for barbecued vegetables
• Spooned on top of a bowl of soup
Roast roots with butter alla diavola
This is inspired by a recipe in Joshua McFadden’s book, Six Seasons. Vegans could use coconut oil in place of butter. Try to find turnips with their green tops still intact: these are delicious roasted with the roots.
Prep 10 min
Cooking 50 min
For the roots
500g turnips, tops trimmed and reserved, peeled and cut into bite-sized wedges
500g waxy potatoes, cut into rough pieces
2 garlic cloves, bashed but not peeled
Salt and black pepper
200g winter greens (such as kale tops)
For the butter
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 pinch dried chilli flakes
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
2 pickled green chillies
1 tbsp hot chilli sauce (such as the Cholula brand)
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas 6. Take a knob of butter from the 75g and toss it into a roasting tray with the turnips, potatoes and garlic. Season, pop it in the oven for a minute to melt, then take out the tray and toss everything together. Put back into the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the turnips and potatoes are soft and golden.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan, then add the rest of the ingredients to flavour it. Take off the heat and leave to one side to mellow.
Once the potatoes and turnips are soft and golden, throw in the greens. Roast for another 10 minutes, remove from the oven, transfer to a serving bowl and pour the warm butter over the top.