IF you want to create all the flavours, colours and aromas of Spain in your kitchen, certain ingredients are essential. They normally include good olive oil along with the subtle use of garlic. Saffron, almonds, chorizo, sherry, Serrano ham are also important elements as well as paprika and roasted red peppers. Nowadays Peppers come in all shapes and sizes and a vast array of colours, but red, green and yellow are the most widely available. Peppers begin their lives green, and when left on the stalks to mature, they mellow and begin to turn red, with a sweeter flesh. They are high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids. They also contain beta-carotene, vitamin B6, and potassium and contain powerful antioxidant properties. This means they help to protect against cancer and heart disease. My favourite Spanish peppers are “pimientos del piquillo”, a red pepper roasted over a wood fire with a tangy sweetness and an intense flavour followed by a little kick. These peppers are from the municipalities of Andosilla, Azagra, Carcar, Lerfn, Lodosa, Mendavia, San Adrian and Sartaguda of Navarre in the north of Spain. During the months of September and October, piquillo peppers are hand picked daily from each plant to ensure the perfect ripeness and pointed shape. During these months they can be found fresh but most recipes call for the skinned and de-seeded variety found in tins. Piquillo peppers can be poached slowly with a little olive oil and garlic, then sprinkled with “Flor de sal” and served with grilled meats and fish. Their triangular shape and the slightly curved point also make them the perfect vehicle for stuffing and are often found in Spanish restaurants filled with minced pork, rice, goats cheese and salt cod. Stuffed piquillo peppers are perhaps the quintessential dish of the cuisine of Navarre, so grab the tin opener and enjoy the sweet, slightly piquant flavour of “pimientos del piquillo”, unlike anything you've tasted before. Bon appetite.


(serves 8-10) l This sauce can also be served with grilled fish, pasta and all types of vegetable dishes. l 4 Red peppers (chopped) l 1 Medium onion (chopped) l 2 ripe tomatoes (chopped) l 2 garlic cloves (crushed)

· 30ml olive oil
· Sprig of fresh thyme
· Bay leaves
· 300ml chicken stock
· Seasoning

l Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and add the chopped onion. Cook slowly over a gentle flame until it starts to soften. Add the red peppers, tomatoes, crushed garlic and sprig of thyme. Cover with a lid and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove the lid, add the bay leaves, chicken stock and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Remove the sprig of fresh thyme, the bay leaves and blend in a liquidiser until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve, season to taste.


(serves 4-6)

· 12 piquillo peppers
l For the brandada: l 1 kl salt cod (de-salted)
· 500g mashed potatoes
· 500ml milk
· 2 cloves of garlic
· 150ml olive oil
l 1/2 onion studded with 2 cloves
· 2 parsley stalks
· 2 pinches of nutmeg
· 2 pinches of cayenne pepper
· juice of one lemon

l Place the salt cod in a pan and cover with the milk. Add the onion and parsley stalks and bring slowly to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.

Remove the cod and add to mashed potatoes.

Add olive oil, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and 2-3 tablespoons of milk to form a light puree. Season to taste. Drain the peppers and carefully fill them with the brandade. Place in a lightly oiled oven dish and pour over the red pepper coulis.

Cover and bake in a moderate oven for 10 minutes or until hot. Serve immediately.