Cook your way to Spain

Embrace sun, sea and sangria from home with these Mediterranean recipes
Image from Shutterstock

There’s no holiday destination us Brits love more than Spain. Over 18 million of us head to the sangria-soaked shores every summer, drawn in by the allure of sun (300 days a year, to be precise), gorgeous beaches caressed by seafood-scented breezes, and – above all – the cuisine.

From crispy padrón peppers oozing with tangy cheese to fresh shellfish served with a satisfying sting of chilli, Spanish cooking is a sanctuary for all flavours fresh and fiery.

If you’ve not got a trip booked to the sunny nation this summer, fear not. We’re on hand to make sure you can still get your tapas fix. We’ve asked top chefs to share their recipes for Spanish dishes you can easily whip up at home, from piquant padróns to the perfect paella. And why not finish it all off with a big ol’ jug of sangria? After all, you are (almost) on holiday… 

Tempura padrón peppers stuffed with goat’s curd 

By Brindisa 

INGREDIENTS
Makes 8

8 padrón peppers
40g San Simon cheese (or any goat’s curd)
1.25l sparkling water 
75g plain flour (plus a little extra)
Pinch table salt 
Pinch smoked Maldon salt 
Pinch paprika 
Olive or vegetable oil for frying

METHOD

  1. If you have a fryer, set it to 180°C. If  not, fill a deep pan with olive or vegetable oil and heat until bubbling.
  2. Cut the tops off the padrón peppers and remove the seeds from the inside. 
  3. Dice the cheese into small cubes. Stuff the peppers with the cheese and place to one side.  
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sparkling water, plain flour and a pinch of fine salt, mixing to ensure there are no lumps.  
  5. Lightly coat the padrón peppers with a light dusting of flour before dipping them in your batter. Make sure each pepper is completely coated to avoid the cheese from bursting out when they are fried.  
  6. Deep-fry the stuffed and battered padrón peppers at 180°C for 2-3 minutes in olive or vegetable oil. You’ll know they’re done when the batter puffs up and becomes crispy and golden.  
  7. Serve and eat with a liberal pinch of smoked Maldon sea salt and paprika.  
Mussels cooked in lager with chilli jam and oregano 

By Pilgrim Restaurant for the Estrella Galicia Gastronomy recipe collection  

INGREDIENTS
Serves 4

For the mussels:
500g fresh mussels 
1 bottle light lager (the recipe recommends Estrella Galicia)
Handful fresh oregano leaves 
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve 
Sea salt flakes 

For the chilli jam:
1 red onion
2 red peppers, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced 
6 red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped 
2 large vine tomatoes, chopped 
2 tbsp brown sugar 
1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika 
40ml fish sauce 

METHOD

To make the chilli jam:

  1. Sauté the red peppers and onions until quite dark in colour (about 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and chillies and sauté for another 10 minutes. 
  2. Next, add the tomatoes and paprika and sauté for a further 5 mins before adding the sugar and the fish sauce. Cook it down for 5-10 mins, then blitz with a stick blender and chill.

To cook the mussels:

  1. Clean and rinse the mussels, making sure to discard any broken shells. Heat a large saucepan until very hot. Add a glug of olive oil and throw in the mussels. Cover with a lid and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the mussels have opened. 
  2. Add 2 large tablespoons (or more if you like a bit of a kick) of the chilli jam and stir it through the mussels before adding the lager. Season with a little salt and then cover with a lid and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until all the mussels are opened. Mix through the oregano. 
  3. To serve, divide the mussels between bowls (discarding any that haven’t opened) and pour over the sauce. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and get stuck in.
Iberian presa paella

By Quique Dacosta and Richard De La Crux of Arros QD, London

Image credit: lateef.photography

Arros QD's top paella tip: “Keep track of the time! In our recipe we use 1200ml of stock and 240g of rice and from the moment we add the stock we start the 20-minute countdown. This is all the time that it takes for the rice to be cooked and not a minute longer!"

INGREDIENTS
Serves 4-6 

40cm paella pan (or any heavy based saucepan you’ve got) 
240g short grain rice (also known as bomba)
1200ml stock (Arros use 600ml game 600ml chicken but just use chicken if that’s what you have)
50g sofrito (see recipe below)
50ml sofrito oil (reserved from making the sofrito)
60g each of broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and courgettes
150g grilled prime Iberian presa (but if you can't find this then chicken thighs, rare steak and lamb work well too)

For the sofrito:
100g tomatoes, grated or finely chopped 
20g garlic, chopped 
¼ onion, chopped 
1 tsp paprika
100ml olive oil


METHOD

  1. First, make your sofrito. Fry together the tomatoes, garlic, onion and paprika in the olive oil and cook it down until you’ve got a thick, tomatoey sauce. Spoon out the excess oil and save it for later. 
  2. Place the paella pan over a high heat. Heat the sofrito oil in the paella pan, then add the rice. Fry for about 1 minute until it turns transparent then add the sofrito sauce and fry it lightly for another 45 seconds. 
  3. Next, pour in the stock, bring to the boil and cook over a high heat for 6 minutes. Season to taste before lowering the temperature and cooking for another 7 minutes.
  4. While the paella is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Cut the broccoli and cauliflower into small pieces (around 6mm thick). Finely dice the courgettes and asparagus then mix with broccoli and cauliflower and set aside.
  5. Season the Iberian presa (or whichever meat you’re using) and then sear it in a hot pan or grill until it’s cooked (for the presa, this will be when it’s medium rare). Slice it into approximately 1 cm thick pieces. 
  6. At this point, the paella should have been cooking for around 15 minutes. Add the vegetables and let it cook for another 2 minutes. 
  7. The last step before serving is to make the socarrat – which is the crispy layer of rice that meets the pan. To do this, bring the temperature up to the highest heat and cook for approximately 3 minutes before layering the Iberian presa on top. Check if the rice has soaked up all the stock and leave the paella to rest for a few minutes before serving.