Spanish Paprika

Since I can remember we have always had little tins of pimentón in the kitchen. Some had pictures of newlyweds dressed in 1960s ‘mod’ gear, some had images of blazing saints, others bore pictures of flowers. Pimentón is ubiquitous to much of Spanish cooking; it is a cornerstone flavour. When used at the start of a dish, such as an estofado (stew), the flavour is well cooked through and mellows out. Where it is added in the middle of cooking — such as the potage of chickpeas, spinach and cod on— the flavour is more pronounced. Dusted on a dish just before serving, it adds a sharp hit of earthiness, almost astringency. I like to compare it to Japanese dashi: it is so often there in the food, not taking centre stage, just sitting in the background helping all the other flavours come together while adding its own special notes.