Introduced through conquest and occupation, spices add zing to Spanish cuisine.
Spanish cooking is big on spices - especially in the south - but they are rarely hot. Eight centuries of Moorish occupation on the Iberian Peninsula introduced exotic spices, including saffron, cumin and turmeric. Through time, the use of imported spice has been modified and married to other local ingredients to create the unique flavours found in modern Spanish cooking.
One crucial spice is pimenton. Also known as Spanish paprika, it is the powder of dried red capsicums. It can be sweet, hot, smoked or bitter-sweet. Introduced to Spain from South America as a decorative plant, pimenton is now an integral part of the Spanish kitchen, much like dashi is to Japanese cuisine or parmesan is to Italian cuisine.
Tins of this spice, imported from Spain, are sold at good Australian delis and usually feature eye-catching artwork. It adds flavour to a broad range of dishes, from fresh fish to sausage rolls. This tuna recipe is to be eaten tapas-style, and is great with cold fino sherry.
PAN-FRIED TUNA WITH SMOKY PAPRIKA
1kg skinless tuna fillet, cut into 2.5cm chunks
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 tbsp oregano leaves
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
185ml dry white wine
150ml extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes
The day before serving, put tuna, paprika, fennel seeds, oregano, garlic and parsley in a bowl with 100 millilitres of the wine. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge overnight.
Heat half the oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat. Add half the tuna, season to taste with salt and cook for a minute, or until golden.
Add 2 tablespoons of remaining wine, turn tuna over and cook the other side for a minute, then place on a warm serving plate - the idea is to cook and colour the tuna, but not overcook it.
Wipe frying pan clean with paper towel and repeat the process with the remaining oil, tuna and wine. Allow tuna to cool before serving.
* Makes 6 medium serves (pictured above).
LAMB AND PAPRIKA SAUSAGE ROLLS
500g coarsely ground lamb mince
80g finely diced onion
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp smoked paprika
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
30g fresh breadcrumbs
20g grated parmesan
1 large pinch salt
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1/2 lemon, rind finely grated
2 sheets store-bought puff pastry
1 egg whisked with a little water
Put filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well (if using an electric mixer, mix about 3 minutes with a paddle).
Cut each puff pastry sheet in half and put a quarter of the lamb mix in a piping bag, leaving a large piping hole. Pipe the mix lengthways along the pastry, 1 centimetre from the bottom.
Brush egg wash along the top of the pastry above the lamb, roll over and seal. Repeat with remaining pastry pieces and lamb mix to create four very long sausage rolls.
Place on baking tray lined with baking paper and put in the fridge for half an hour.
Pre-heat oven to 200C. Remove rolls from fridge, brush tops well with egg wash and cut into desired size (from a cocktail bite to lunch size). Return to lined tray, bake for about 12 minutes until golden.
* Makes four long sausage rolls.