Smoking Hot

The claims printed on packaging are usually laughable, but sometimes they preach the truth. On the side of a tin of La Chinata Pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika powder) read the words "It is a condiment which cannot be missed in your kitchen". Si, si, quiero que mi pimentón! (y gracias a Google translate).

Welcome to one of my favourite flavours - smoky heat. This Spanish spice is so beloved it has been designated 'Denominación de Origen Protegida' by the EU, thus can only be called Pimentón de la Vera if it is produced in La Vera region of Spain.

This type of paprika is distinguished from others by its characteristic smoky aroma which it takes on after being dried using smoking oak. The pimentón is available in three types: dulce (smoky sweet), picante (smoky hot) and agridulce (smoky bittersweet). Me? I'm a smoking hot kind of girl.

If you don't own any of this red wonder powder I implore you to get some (I've found it in supermarkets) in your cupboard pronto. Then stir some into your hummus. Sprinkle some into your eggs. And use it to bring life to leftovers. Just be sure to use it sparingly if you purchase the picante. I've developed a bit of an immunity to it over the years, but a pinch packs a punch when you're just stepping into the ring.

An ideal way to use smoked paprika is in a dish that cooks in a broth. The burnt-amber liquor fills the house with a fireside aroma, and allows the flavour to seep into every morsel. The daffodils have blossomed and the sun is shining, but the nights still have a chill. There's still a need for hearty and comforting dinners. Sharpen your knife and getting chopping. 

Smoky Bean Hotpot
Adapted from: Market Vegetarian by Ross Dobson

Ross Dobson is a cook from Sydney who is seriously into using seasonal produce. He writes brilliant vegetarian recipes, using a variety of bold flavours from around the world. He suggests using Great Northern Beans for this recipe, but I've always used his noted back-up, butter beans.  

Serves 4

100g dried butter beans (or 400g tin, drained)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons pimentón
1 celery stick, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 medium waxy potatoes (use a variety that holds its shape when cooked) cut into 2cm dice
1 red pepper, chopped
500ml vegetable stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

If you are using dried beans soak them overnight in cold water. Put the drained beans in a saucepan and cover with just-boiled water. Cook until softened, around 30 - 40 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Warm the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Cook the onion for a few minutes until softened. Add the paprika and garlic, fry for 2 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, potatoes, and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring all the while to coat everything in smoky goodness. Pour in the stock and gently mix in the beans. Bring to the boil then partially cover the pot and simmer for 40 minutes, stir regularly, until the veggies are cooked. Serve with fresh crusty white bread to sop up every ounce of your Spanish spoils.

Love your Leftovers: Let any remaining hotpot cool off, then put in an airtight container and freeze. 

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