IT HAD BEEN A COLD DAY IN BILBAO AND WE HAD DONE OUR BEST TO KEEP WARM BY WALKING THROUGH THE MARKETS. THE RIVERSIDE MARKET IS A MULTI-FLOORED AFFAIR AND REMINDED ME OF A SHOPPING CENTRE THAT ONLY SELLS FOOD. FOR ME THIS WAS HEAVEN. I WAS STRUCK BY THE QUALITY OF BOTH THE FISH — PARTICULARLY THE SHELLFISH AND SCAMPI, A TYPE OF VERY SMALL LOBSTER — AND THE CURED HAMS, WITH A FEW BAYONNE HAMS FROM OVER THE FRENCH BORDER. IMAGINE MY JOY WHEN WE FOUND A BAR THAT HAD SCAMPI TAILS THAT HAD BEEN WRAPPED IN HAM AND COOKED SLOWLY IN OIL. THEY WERE SERVED STILL WARM WITH A NICE LITTLE GUERNICA PEPPER AND A SLICE OF PRESERVED WHITE ASPARAGUS. ALTHOUGH YOU MIGHT NOT FIND GUERNICA PEPPERS, GUINDILLAS ARE NOW MORE WIDELY AVAILABLE. AND IF YOU CAN’T FIND SCAMPI USE LARGE PRAWN (SHRIMP) TAILS. I’VE ALSO USED PALM HEARTS, AVAILABLE FROM SPECIALITY FOOD SHOPS, BUT IF YOU CAN’T GET THEM JUST USE ASPARAGUS.
Peel the scampi and remove the alimentary canal. Season to taste, then wrap each scampi in a slice of jamón and secure with a toothpick.
Place the scampi, olive oil and garlic cloves in a heavy-based saucepan that is small enough that the oil covers the scampi. Cook over medium heat until the temperature reaches 80°C (175°F). Reduce the heat to low to maintain the heat at 80°C (175°F) and cook for 25 minutes. Remove the scampi, drain on paper towel, then remove the toothpicks.
Thread a piece of palm heart, three guindillas and a warm scampi onto six new toothpicks. Sprinkle with the paprika and serve warm.
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