I found myself at London Bridge the other day with some time to kill and so I wandered down to Borough Market. It was a Tuesday, so I knew the main market wouldn’t be open but the peripheral shops like Neil’s Yard Dairy, The Ginger Pig and Brindisa would. As soon as you step into Borough Market some sort of money hoover is switched on and your wallet starts haemorrhaging dosh; so it was that I found myself dropping £20 in Brindisa. I bought some cooking chorizo, Ortiz tinned tuna and dried choricero peppers (also used to make paprika). I pondered how to use the latter and decided I’d try them in a Romesco sauce, a Catalan sauce which is a potent blend of peppers, garlic, olive oil, almonds and breadcrumbs.
Romesco sauce tastes about a million times better made with proper Spanish peppers and I wish I’d had Spanish almonds too. The peppers added a smoky depth and bittersweet flavour, just like the sign in the shop told me it would. The pounded, toasted almonds add richness; I adore any sauce with nuts in, muhammara being another good example. We ate it with pan fried fillets of gurnard but any white fish would work well.
I’ll be making this on my annual trip to Catalonia with two of my mates later this year and eating it with vegetables (hopefully calçots), meat, fish, anything and everything that can be grilled on the BBQ under the beating Spanish sun.
(makes enough sauce to serve 6-8)
3 dried choricero peppers
1 thick slice stale crusty white bread (if you only have fresh, dry it out in a low oven)
3 large tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons olive oil plus a little extra to finish
Begin by removing the stalks from the peppers (twist and pull), shaking out the seeds and covering them with boiling water. Let soak for half an hour. When re-hydrated, chop finely.
Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a dry pan, moving them around until they smell toasty and start to colour slightly. Remove and set aside. Whizz the bread in a blender to make breadcrumbs. Skin the tomatoes by make a cross shape in the bottom of each one then covering with boiling water for a few minutes. Drain, then plunge into cold water and leave for a minute. The skins should now peel off easily. Chop finely and set aside.
In a pestle and mortar, pound the almonds until they are all crushed. You can do this in a blender but you need to be careful you don’t end up with nut butter by over-processing the nuts.
Now you just need to mix everything together. You can either pound it in a pestle and mortar but I used a blender as this makes quite a lot of sauce. Don’t over-blend though, you want the sauce to keep a nice coarse texture. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve. You may want to add more lemon juice or olive oil.