Read how just a pinch of paprika adds a depth of flavour and colour to any dish. + Recipes for Smoked Paprika, Shallot Butter and Cheese and Paprika Sablé biscuits.
Paprika is a mild and sweet pepper which you usually buy in its ground state. The whole pepper grows in warm climates and ranges in flavour from mild to sweet to hot. It is an essential ingredient in goulash, the Hungarian stew, and it is often sprinkled on cooked dishes and canapés to make them look more appealing without adding heat. Some of the finest paprika comes from Spain where it is called pimenton. It is used in cooking primarily for its flavour and also as a garnish (try mixing a pinch of sweet paprika with olive oil and drizzling it on soup) and a food colouring agent.
1. PAPRIKA OIL Make paprika oil to drizzle on bruschetta, soup, halved soft-boiled eggs and cheese toasties; rub it into the skin of a whole chicken before roasting and sprinkle smoked paprika oil over hot buttered barbecued corn-on-the-cob.
Paprika Oil Recipe
Warm 200ml olive oil over gentle heat, then turn the heat off. Add 2 tablespoons of either sweet, hot or smoked ground paprika. Add a pinch of salt and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper and stir. Leave for 30 minutes to infuse. Strain through a coffee filter or a sheet of clean paper towel into a clean sterilised bottle. Store in the fridge for up to a month.
2. ROAST CHICKEN WITH PAPRIKA AND ROAST VEGETABLES
Season 4 chicken breasts with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss the chicken breasts with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika in a freezer bag and leave to marinate for 5-10 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Transfer the chicken to an oiled baking tray and surround with small cubes of potatoes and strips of sweet potato and a sprinkling of Herbes de Provence. Drizzle over a little more oil to coat the vegetables. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is golden and the vegetables are soft.
3. ADD A HUNGARIAN FLOURISH TO ANY DISH
Don’t wait until you make a Hungarian Goulash to add paprika to stews or soups. Add a quarter to half a teaspoon of smoked paprika to onions and vegetables when you fry them at the start of cooking. At the end of cooking the dish, add a few spoons of sour cream (mix it with a few spoons of the hot sauce, then add it back to the casserole to stop the cream curdling). These two steps will elevate even the most basic casserole or soup.
4. CHEESE AND PAPRIKA BISCUITS
These biscuits are based on a classic sablé recipe. It’s a sophisticated way of using up leftover cheese and you can mix different types to make up the quantity needed for this recipe (you can use any hard cheese that grates well). Serve them as part of a cheeseboard, on their own with a glass of wine or with soup. If you want to keep them, you can roll the dough in cling film, freeze it for up to a month, defrost, slice the biscuits from the roll and bake them before serving.
MAKES ABOUT 40 biscuits
120g plain flour
120g butter, cold and cubed
120g grated cheese (Cheddar, Parmesan or Gruyere)
1/4 teaspoon paprika plus more for dusting
1 egg, beaten with a little cold milk
1. Place the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture turns into crumbs. Add the cheese and paprika and pulse until the ingredients start to clump and cling to the sides. Turn the mixture out onto a sheet of cling film and press into a flat round. Wrap well and leave to chill in the fridge for at least an hour (though you can leave it up to 24 hours or freeze it at this stage).
2. When you are ready to bake the biscuits, take the dough out of the fridge and leave for 15 minutes before you roll it. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Roll out the dough between two pieces of cling film (it saves you having to add more flour which can dry out the biscuits). The biscuits should be about 3mm thick. Cut into squares or rounds and place on parchment paper or silicone on a baking tray. Dust the tops lightly with paprika and brush with beaten egg. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until golden. Cool before lifting the biscuits from the baking sheets as they break easily when they are warm. Wrap in parchment paper and store in a tin.
You can also roll the dough into a tube shape, and cut the biscuit slices from it.
5. SMOKED PAPRIKA AND SHALLOT BUTTER
This is adapted from a recipe by Michel Roux from his authoritative book called Sauces: Savoury and Sweet.
4 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped
160g butter, very-well softened
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1. Fry the shallots in the 25g butter until soft, then leave until cold. Mix the cold shallots into the 160g softened butter with the paprika and season to taste. Whizz in a food processor or press through a sieve until it is smooth. Roll the butter in cling film and chill or freeze until required. Serve a slice of paprika butter on cooked fish or steak.
More recipe ideas with dried paprika:
FRIED CHICKEN: Add a sprinkling to the batter mixture you use to coat the chicken before frying to give it colour and flavour.
PAPRIKA WITH ROAST VEG: Mix dried paprika with olive oil, salt and black pepper and drizzle over vegetables before roasting – it will give them a golden hue. Experiment with different types of paprika from hot to sweet to smoked.
SMOKEY BEANS: Stir a light sprinkling of smoked paprika into tinned baked beans when you are heating them. Better still use it in home-made baked beans (fry a sliced clove of garlic in olive oil, add a tin of drained and rinsed haricot beans, finely chopped fried pancetta, a spoon of hot smoked paprika and a tin of cherry tomatoes – cook for 20 minutes over low heat).
MIDDLE-EASTERN EGGS AND TOMATOES: Fry onions in a large non-stick frying pan in olive oil until soft. Sprinkle over a pinch of hot sweet smoked paprika and a pinch of dried thyme or oregano and stir. Add sliced garlic and fry for a minute until fragrant. Add chopped chorizo and fry to render the oil. Add a teaspoon of sweet paprika along with good quality tinned cherry tomatoes. Cook for 5-6 minutes until the mixture is thick, using a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Break eggs over the tomatoes, place a lid on top of the frying pan and cook over gentle heat until the egg yolks have a film of white over them but are still soft. Sprinkle over chopped coriander and serve with crusty bread and thick Greek yogurt.
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