|Five hours in the oven – off for a rest.|
Pimentón – that’s the answer! This flash of inspiration entered my head when thinking about how I was going to frame a piece about the main course of the Spanish-themed menu I recently cooked. If you have read my previous two posts on Scrummy Scran you will have learnt how I fell in love with Spanish cuisine, and about the Galician seafood soup that kicked off a recent lunch for friends involving the cuisine of Spain. So now to provide some insight into that meal’s main course – marinated, slow roast shoulder of lamb with patatas bravas – and the role pimentón plays in both these dishes.
Pimentón (or paprika, to give the spice its more common Slavic/Hungarian-derived name) is an essential constituent in a plethora of Spanish dishes. It adds a savoury, even earthy element to cooking, which can also be smokey and sometimes fiery. The spice is produced from various varieties of red peppers (Capsicum annuum) which were originally introduced to Spain from South America by Columbus. Grown in the Extremadura and Murcia regions of Spain, when ripe the peppers are harvested and then dried (frequently over oak fires, which give the spice a deep smokey note) before being stone ground to form a fine powder. Depending on the variety of red pepper used, the pimentón produced can be sweet, bittersweet, or picante (or hot, if a species of chilli is the predominant capsicum constituent). The smokey, earthy flavours of pimentón are essential to both my main course dishes, but work with these in different ways.
Firstly, the slow-roast lamb. This consists of a shoulder joint with the bone in (in this case purchased from Edinburgh’s excellent Crombie’s butchers) which is marinated overnight in a mixture of garlic, smoked pimentón, sherry vinegar, oregano and olive oil. When preparing this dish, I place the joint in a large, re-sealable freezer bag and pour in the marinade, before massaging it into the lamb, and placing in fridge. The several hours immersed in this mixture allows the vinegar and oil to carry the herb and spice flavours deep into the flesh, beautifully complementing the taste of the spring lamb. It is then slowly roast for at least four-six hours, which makes the meat both succulent and so tender it can be carved with forks, as opposed to knives.
|Patatas bravas – the pleasure of pimentón.|
For the patas bravas, the pimentón is of the picante variety. This really provides a kick of heat to the
rich, slightly fruity, tomato and herb sauce that compliments the crispy roast potatoes. And before any traditionalists jump in, yes the potatoes are normally deep fried but I prefer coat them in olive oil and seasoning and then roast them in a ceramic dish. They are just as beautifully golden on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, and you hear a satisfying bubbling from the sauce as it is poured on the spuds just after they emerge from the oven.
When preparing these recipes they work best when using a good quality pimentón – either pimentón de la Vera (which is smoked), or Pimentón de Murcia (which is not smoked). Both these have their authenticity protected, and come in the sweet, bitter-sweet, and picante varients.
The following recipes are my interpretations of those to be found in the excellent Moro: The Cookbook, which – as I have mentioned in previous posts – has been a big influence on my ventures into cooking Spanish cuisine. I would accompany the dishes with either steamed, new season broad beans, or the excellent chickpea, tomato and cucumber salad, which is also listed in the Moro cookbook.
The dishes will easily serve four people as a main course.
Marinated, slow-roast shoulder of lamb
- 1 shoulder of lamb, between 1.5-2.5kg and as locally sourced as possible
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with a little sea salt
- 1 teaspoon of sweet (dulce) smoked paprika (pimentón) – ensure it is good quality
- 2 teaspoons of sherry vinegar – again, good quality
- 2 teaspoons of fresh oregano leaves – use thyme as an alternative – finely chopped or pounded
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper, to season
- A good glass of dry white wine
- 1.5 kg potatoes – scrubbed but not peeled and cut into 2-3cm cubes.
- 8 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 small dried red chilli, crumbled
- 2 bay leaves – fresh if available
- ½ teaspoon each of dried thyme and oregano
- 1 large Spanish onion, chopped finely
- 1 green pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
- 100ml dry white wine
- ½ teaspoon of caster sugar
- A generous teaspoon of hot, smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)
Preparation and cooking
For the lamb
- Place the lamb in either a large, sealable freezer bag or shallow dish.
- Mix all the ingredients of the marinade, except the olive oil and rub all over the lamb (the olive oil can prevent the acidity of the vinegar penetrating the meat).
- When all the other ingredients are rubbed in well pour in the olive oil.
- Leave the meat to marinade in the fridge for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees for a fan assisted oven)
- Place the lamb in a roasting tin and season well all over with salt and pepper.
- Cover the roasting tin loosely with either baking parchment or cooking foil.
- Place in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 155 degrees Celsius (140 degrees for a fan assisted oven).
- After around 30 minutes, pour in the glass of white wine.
- Cook for at least four hours, basting the meat every 45 minutes with the wine and pan juices. Add a glass of water if these begin to dry out.
- Remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest (loosely covered with foil) in a warm place for at least 20 minutes before serving. The meat should fall off the bone and the juices from the pan (reduced if desired) can be added when serving.
For the patatas bravas
- In a large bowl, coat the potato cubes with two tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper.
- Place in a preheated shallow ceramic dish or roasting tin and return this to the oven set to 200 degrees Celsius (180 degrees for a fan oven). Cook until the potatoes become golden and crispy – this should take about 40-45 minutes.
- Empty the tinned, chopped tomatoes into a bowl and ensure there are no obvious hard cores or pieces of skin present.
- Pour three tablespoons of olive oil into a large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the garlic until golden, but be sure not to let it burn.
- Add the tomatoes and herbs and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until most of the juice has evaporated – around 20 minutes, or so. Remove the pan from the heat.
- In another saucepan sauté the chopped onion and pepper in the remaining olive oil for around 20 minutes until soft, sweet and slightly caramelised.
- Add the white wine to the onion mixture and bring to the boil to evaporate the alcohol, and pour in the tomato mixture from the other pan.
- Stir in the paprika and sugar and then season with salt and pepper. Cook for a further five minutes, loosening the mixture with a little water if it becomes too thick. Set aside when cooked.
- When the potatoes are ready, remove from the oven and pour over the warmed sauce and sprinkle with a little extra paprika.
- I prefer to serve the patatas bravas unadorned, but sometimes in Spain a little alioli might be spooned on top of them.