Hot, sweet or semi-sweet, smoked or unsmoked, hot smoked… the impressive array of paprika on the market underlines how important this pungent chilli powder is to a number of cuisines – especially those of Spain and Hungary, home of the famous goulash.
Paprika is a fine powder made from sweet chillies of the Capsicum annum variety, which differ in size and shape. Paprika’s colour ranges from bright red to rust brown, and, generally speaking, it’s much milder than cayenne. The flavour is also more important and nuanced, with variations on fruity, caramel, smoky, bitter, sweet and hot.
Ever since Spain and Portugal introduced Capsicum annum to Europe, it’s been a favourite ingredient in northern hemisphere cuisines, adding both colour and flavour but not necessarily the heat beloved by South American and Asian cultures. Spain, Portugal and Hungary are major producers, with paprika from Hungary’s Szegad region and Spain’s La Chinata brand among the finest. Hungarians grade their paprika in six categories ranging from Eros (hot and pungent) to Kulonleges (exquisite delicate), while the Spanish grade it as picante (hot), dolce (sweet) or agridulce (semi-sweet).
Smoked paprika, which gets its flavour and aroma from slow-drying the chillies over oak fires, is a key ingredient in authentic Spanish cooking, giving depth, heat and colour to chorizo, paella, soups and casseroles. Portuguese cooks use paprika in fish stews and salt cod, while in Hungary it is a main flavouring in goulash and other meat casseroles.
Use paprika in ...
goulash, paella, moussaka, lamb, chicken and beef casseroles; in a meat, fish or chicken rub mixed with lemon juice and olive oil; in flour dusting for chicken or fish; sprinkled on potatoes and other vegetables before roasting; over fried or scrambled eggs or yoghurt-based dips; in vinaigrette; or fried with garlic, onion, olive oil and bay leaf to give boiled vegetables a lift. Never overheat paprika as it will become bitter, and keep in an airtight container away from light.
Paprika goes with ...
veal, beef, lamb, chicken, venison, pork, fish, seafood, potato, rice, noodles, squash, eggs, peas, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, garlic, corn, pulses, tomatoes, eggplant, parsley, thyme, oregano, saffron, lemon, cloves, butter, yoghurt, sour cream, bread.