pimientos del piquillo – piquillo peppers
A guide to food in Spain
Pimientos del piquillo come from Navarra, and have their own “Denominación de Origen” (D.O. Pimientos del Piquillo de Lodosa). These small red peppers are charred over wood charcoal / old vines, then peeled by hand, marinated in olive oil with herbs, and eventually eaten either alone or in a salad or stuffed. I have never seen pimientos del piquillo in any form other than tinned, bottled or jarred, usually without any preservatives or additives. In general, I’d never recommend a canned product over a fresh one, but in this instance I will. This has to do with both the fact that the pimientos del piquillo are quite different in flavour and texture from regular bell peppers, and also the fact that preserving can create something new, and not just poorly imitate the “real thing”. In the case of piquillos, the essential flavour may actually be enhanced by the preservation, and the texture is definitely improved. Certainly they are a poor simulacrum of fresh peppers, but that is n
ot the point. The flavour of canned or jarred piquillo peppers is so extraordinary that even Alain Ducasse recommends them for stuffing in his book, Mediterranees, cuisine de l’essential. Daniel Boulud, Ferran Adrià and many other famous chefs use them. Indeed 99% of Spain’s cooks (amateurs or pros) use canned or jarred piquillos. The best brands are: Conservas de Lodosa, El Navarrico and Conservas Rosara. Conservas Dantza piquillos are slightly cheaper because the jar usually contains some torn peppers. My personal favorite way to cook these luscious peppers is in a cazuela (shallow clay pot) where I simply heat them slowly in a few teaspoons of olive oil with some garlic until they release their juices, to be eaten just so or as an unctuous garnish for potatoes or meat. I am not patient enough to make reductions, but I have had reduction of pimientos del piquillo as a spectacular sauce over any kind of dish featuring peppers.
Ordinary green or red pimientos and pimientos del piquillo are frequently fried, baked or roasted, and stuffed with other ingredients. My favourite stuffing is simply fried carne picada [minced pork and / or beef] and onions with garlic, but more ambitious recipes are not uncommon.
By Frances Barrett