Gambas al Pil Pil – Sizzling Spicy Prawns

This is a hugely popular and typically Andalucían tapas dish or starter.  I have tried to find out the origin of the words Pil Pil and some say that it comes from an Arabic word felfel (I don´t speak Arabic so assume it has something to do with spice or chili).  Others say it comes from the sound the prawns make sizzling in the hot oil. I don´t know if either are true – I like both stories, almost as much as I enjoy making and eating Gambas al Pil Pil.

If you can get hold of good prawns (or shrimp) then this is a very easy yet impressive dish to serve to your guests. If you have a terracotta dish to cook them in, well that´s even better as it does add something special to the taste and the prawns stay hot and sizzling for a few minutes as you bring the dish to the table.

Per person for a good tapas serving you will need

  • 100g peeled prawns (defrosted if frozen)
  • 1 dried hot chili and/or half a teaspoon of hot pimentón – this is down to personal taste – crumbled
  • A fat clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • A good pinch of salt

About 2 tablespoons of olive oil (if you are doing a large serving, just use enough oil to half cover the prawns)

Start by putting everything apart from the prawns into a frying pan or terracotta pot. Turn up the heat and cook until the garlic begins to turn brown at the edges.

When you want to serve your dish add the prawns and cook at a lower heat until the prawns are cooked through then turn up the heat until they begin to sizzle.

Serve with plenty of bread to mop up the delicious chili oil. If served in a large pot or pan, it is traditionally served as a sharing dish. Everyone has their own fork and “prongs” their bread into the juices.

Serve with an ice cold beer, a chilled manzanilla or a crisp cool white wine.  ¡Buen provecho!

PS. No fear of me running out of chillis this coming year…the harvest is now safely stored and drying in the shed!

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Pickled Chilies, Fridge Chilies, Dried Chilies, Chilly Chilies

Can you guess what this post is about? There´s a small hint in the title…

Yes, I am a complete chili addict.  I love things hot and spicy, but I know that not everyone else does.  Big Man has gradually increased his “heat tolerance” over the last few years, but he´s still got a way to go before he catches up with me.  A way around this is to grow your own chilies and then use them as you like.  They´re hard to buy here, Spain is not typically a nation of spicy food lovers.

Most of the chilies ripen at around the same time.  We planted late this year, so ours are all starting to turn red or orange (some are picked green) in early September. When you have this glut of chilies, you have to do something with them to keep them for the year ahead.

Chili Heaven

The simplest methods are (apart from eating them fresh), to freeze them or dry them.  Last year I planted long thin green chilies, some stubby orange ones, and the fiery cayennes.  You can see them in the photo.  If anyone wants seeds, please let me know and I´d be happy to mail them to you…honestly, if you have the weather for growing them they should do well.

This year I also planted some that a neighbour gave me (I don´t have a photo as they are not ripe yet) of some super fiery pinky red chilies that look like little balls or rose hips when they are mature.  If anyone knows what they might be, I´d love to know.

Some of my chilies I pickle and I followed the guidelines in Olives and Artichokes post here.  I used mustard seeds and peppercorns in this particular jar, but am going to enjoy playing around with spices and pickles over the next few weeks.

And a final way, which may be new to you, is my mum´s refrigerator chili preserve (for want of a better name) which keeps for a month or two and is for dedicated chili lovers who enjoy spooning spicy fresh chilies over anything and everything.  Cut your chilies finely, scissors help with this as they help avoid nasty incidents with chili fingers in eyes.  Put them into a sterilised jar (recently out of the dishwasher is good). Cover the chilies with oil (I use olive oil but any oil will do) and soya sauce (about 8 oil to 1 soya).  Keep in the fridge, shake before serving, and enjoy the buzz!

We are off on holiday tomorrow (yay!) for a week – looking forward to catching up on all your posts and comments when we´re back.  ¡Hasta luego!