Padrón peppers blistered in a frying pan with olive oil and salt flakes are the easiest and one of the nicest tapas.
Tapas vs. small plates
Tapas are so popular in the UK now that the range of restaurants which offer so called ‘small plates’ struggle to gain traction. Invariably, they get stinking reviews about how overpriced they are.
The problem is, a lot of customers don’t understand that small plates are not tapas. They are not supposed to be cheap and not always meant to be shared.
Tapas, what has been totally forgotten outside Spain, are nibbles offered with drinks. Should they serve as a meal, you need to cover the table with plates and bowls in order to satisfy your hunger.
Small plates are a menu construct whereby each diner is expected to pick 3-4 dishes which will not be always served in order, but not all at the same time.
It’s a mini banquet, and you by all means can share your selection with your companions, but it is not meant to be: there will be, annoyingly, three scallops, or just one anchovy fillet spread across a piece of bread.
Considering those dishes might include high-end produce and they are closer to fine dining than to an impromptu feast at the street-food market, they will be priced accordingly.
Tapas should be cheap and cheerful, good but not fancy produce prepared with minimum effort - just like padrón peppers, the perfect example.
Are padrón peppers chillies?
Pimiento de Padrón are Spanish chillies, but of a mild variety.
The legend says that one in ten Padron peppers is chilli-class hot; the other nine being mild, tender and sweet. I have to say I have easily eaten several dozen padrón over the years and not one of them made me choke and gasp.
What a con. The myth is only stoked up so you buy and eat more and more padrón peppers.
Which is not a big hardship.
Can I eat the seeds?
They are an overlooked tapa, possibly because people are worried the whole pile of dark, charred green pods will turn out to be seasoning rather than a dish.
Or maybe they just don’t know and think these are chillies.
Or they wonder whether the seeds and all are edible or you are supposed to dissect each little pepper in order to de-seed them. All three used to be my worries too.
There is absolutely no need to be afraid of padróns. They are mild, they are wholly edible except maybe for the stems; and they keep disappointing me with the promised one in ten.
They are completely easy to prepare too, being probably the simplest tapa to make at home.
How to prepare padrón peppers?
All you need is good olive oil, a large frying pan and flaky sea salt. Heat the first two until almost smoking and add whole padrón peppers.
Let them sit in the heat without touching them, until the skins start to blister, which will take about 3 minutes. Then toss and shake, help the peppers turn over with tongs and aim at a mass of green-charred, soft and wilted, amazingly fragrant peppers.
They will need a generous shower of salt flakes and perhaps a brief rest on paper towels, to drain the oil.
If you dish out some slices of serrano ham next to the peppers and perhaps a chunk of pan de cristal or ciabatta, your exquisite Spanish feast is ready.
More chillies and peppers recipes
This is the best snack I can think of: jalapeno chilli pepper halves, filled with a mix of cream cheese and Cheddar, and baked in the oven.
Roasted peppers salad with soft cheese made with red peppers roasted under the grill and skinned, tossed with spiced dressing and served with soft cheese or feta.
Muhammara, roasted red pepper and walnut dip, flavoured with pomegranate molasses and Aleppo pepper flakes. This should be a firm fixture in your next meze!
More appetiser recipes
Filo wrapped asparagus with Parmesan are a crunchy, golden, irresistible vegetarian snack or appetiser.
Steamed globe artichokes served with sriracha mayo. What you do with the chokes couldn’t be simpler: steam or boil them and dish them out with some spicy dips.
Corn ribs from the oven, with homemade dukkah, just like the ones served at Ottolenghi’s Rovi. It’s totally a snack du moment – and de toujours, I hope.