Back at last, and not a minute too soon. I´ve had to give over twenty talks to over one thousand kids. I´m not exaggerating. I had to sign all their books. Gratifying, but after a while I didn´t even recognize my own name on the page. Some of them wanted me to sign their arms, which is pretty weird. I know I should try and enjoy these tiny glimpses into the life of Madonna, but I can´t. I just feel silly.
But anyway, all things come to an end, and here I am. Confronting a fridge containing all sorts of useful things like miso paste, preserved lemons, wasabi, tahini, cassis jelly and lasagna sheets. Nothing much else, though. Yesterday when I finally managed to get off the plane and out of the gleaming and beutiful horror that´s Terminal 4 of our airport, the shops were shut, and this morning I couldn´t face the market on a bustling Saturday morning.
Time to fall back on a tried and trusted store cupboard standby, the piquillo. I don´t think there´s a cupboard in Spain that doesn´t hold at least one jar of these little life savers.
Oil and vinegar, maybe a litle salt, is all you need to make a meal of the sweet and smoky little peppers. If you have a tin of tuna around (I´m sure you do), then we´re in classic tapa territory. With cherry tomatoes the thing rises to heaven.
They´re also a very good option for jazzing up sorry looking jarred pasta sauces. They´ll transform takeaway pizza, boost jars of beans, and put a very different face on leftover chilli or stew. And they nestle very comfortably up to anything you´d think to put in a sandwich, too.
As well as drastically altering the cooking time on all those recipes that begin with "turn up the oven, roast some peppers, peel them, let them cool", which I really appreciate.
What I´ll give you now, though, is in the realm of haute piquillo cuisine. All you need is some sugar and a bit of patience, after which you´ll have a ruby tangle of pepper shreds that will make you swoon, I promise.
Take a jar or tin of piquillos, and a heavy pan, preferably non-stick. Put the peppers from the jar, with their gooey and rather unattractive liquid in the pan. Add sugar at your discretion, but I´d say at least a heaped tablespoonful for each jar. Put the pan over a very low fire, and forget about it. They´ll be done when the liquid has dissappeared. This can take all of three hours or more, so be patient. Try it half way trhough, test for sugar, and add more if you wish.
They are so wonderful that I advise you to do more than you think you´ll need. My aunt Piti, who gave me this recipe, serves them with sirloin steak. I love them on toast, as bruschetta, but they´re delicious on practically anything, as you can imagine.