THERE are certain ingredients that are essential if you want to create all the flavours, colours and aromas of Spain in your kitchen. Good olive oil, garlic, peppers, saffron, chorizo, serrano ham and the unsung hero of them all, Paprika (pimenta dulce). Paprika is one of those things that most of us take for granted, but its importance in Spain's regional cookery cannot be overstated.
It lends its deep, intense, sweet, spicy flavour to many of the country's favourite dishes such as “paella”, “habas a la Asturiana”, “sopa de ajo” as well as a multitude of ”chorizos” and the Majorcan “sobrasada”. It is produced from cone-shaped peppers (capsicum annuum) that are ripened to redness and were introduced to Spain by natives of Hispaniola during Columbus' second voyage to the New World in 1493. Hungarian scientist Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1937 for isolating vitamin C in paprika. He also discovered that, pound for pound, paprika is a richer source of the vitamin than citrus. The highest–quality Spanish paprika is slowly smoked to give it a most distinctive flavour and aroma. One of my favourite dishes is “pulpo a la gallega” (Galician-style octopus). The octopus is cleaned and boiled in salted water for 30-40 minutes. The tentacles are then sliced and placed on wooden plates where they are drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with a mixture of both hot and mild paprika. It's simplicity itself but the flavour is amazing. When cooking with paprika, take care not to burn or caramelize as its flavour and aroma can easily be destroyed.
Buy your paprika in small quantities, being a spice, it tends to deteriorate rapidly.

RINONES AL JEREZ (KIDNEYS IN SHERRY SAUCE) serves 4 8-10 lambs kidneys
1/2 Spanish onion (chopped)
1 garlic clove (chopped)
150ml dry sherry
150ml meat stock
100ml olive oil
2tbsn. flour
1 tspn paprika
1 tspn chopped fresh thyme
2 tspn chopped parsley
Cut the kidneys into cubes and remove the membrane.
Marinate the kidneys in the olive oil and garlic for at least 15 minutes.
Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan and fry gently the kidneys with the chopped onion: stir in the flour and paprika.
Add the dry sherry and meat stock and simmer until the sauce thickens.
Add parsley, fresh thyme and season.
Serve immediately.

PATATAS A LA RIOJANA (RIOJA STYLE POTATOES) serves 6 2kl potatoes (peeled and diced)
150ml olive oil
200g chorizo (diced)
150g serrano ham (diced)
2 red peppers (diced)
1 Spanish onion (finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1tspn: paprika
2 litres chicken stock
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the chopped onion, peppers and crushed garlic. Cook over a gentle flame until the onions start to soften. Add the diced ham, chorizo, paprika and diced potatoes. Cover with chicken stock and cook gently for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are just cooked. Using a ladle, skim off the fat and impurities that rise to the surface during cooking. Season with salt and pepper, pour into a soup tureen and serve at the table.

ARROZ BRUT serves 6 (This is a rustic Majorcan dish from the middle of the island)
300g rice
3 quails (cut in half)
500g rabbit pieces
200g sobrasada (Majorcan pate)
1 sliced butifarron (black pudding)
1 Spanish onion (chopped)
4 garlic cloves (crushed)
250g fresh peas (cooked)
300g mixed wild mushrooms
3 tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
100ml olive oil
2tbsp. Chopped parsley
1tspn. paprika
Good pinch of saffron
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the chopped onion, cook gently without colour and add the crushed garlic, chopped tomatoes, paprika and saffron. ix well and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the rice, wild mushrooms, rabbit pieces, sobrasada and quails and cover with chicken stock.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sliced butifarron and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Using a ladle, skim off the fat and impurities that rise to the surface during cooking.
Season with salt and pepper, pour into a soup tureen and serve at the table.


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