Basque people love these piquillo peppers stuffed with bacalao brandade. And we all know Basque people know a hell of a lot about food. So what about we make them and see whether they’re actually that good?
Piquillo peppers are one of the many wonderful products that Spain can be well proud of exporting to the rest of the world. The quality of these absolutely delicious roast peppers is second to none and luckily for us we can now find them in most Spanish delis of many major capitals around the world.
The real Piquillo peppers, the authentic ones, come from Lodosa, a small town in the northern region of Navarre, next to the Basque Country. These triangular-shaped, medium-sized peppers have a deeply vibrant red colour and a firm and smooth meat that makes them ideal for stuffing, as they hold very well together when you cook them.
Stuffed Piquillo peppers are an old favourite of mine. I love them in all their many different versions… Stuffed with beef mince and tomato, with black pudding and apple, with tuna, with mushrooms and borraja, with hake and prawns… With pretty much anything! But there is one way, perhaps the most classic way, that I consider unbeatable when it is well executed: piquillo peppers stuffed with bacalao brandade… So good it makes me salivate to only think about it!!
I cooked this recipe last year for Christmas dinner for 15 people and I like to believe it was a total success. And that’s another one of the good qualities of this recipe. It’s great for those occasions when you need to cook for many people. Plus you can do them the day before and just heat them as when you are about to serve them. Or you can even make a bigger lot than you need and freeze them for another time!
Bacalao stuffed piquillo peppers
To make the bacalao brandade:
- If you haven’t done it in advance, you need to desalt the salt cod. To do this, soak the cod in a big bowl with plenty of water, skin up, for 48 to 72 hours, renewing the water every 6-8 hours if possible.
- Place the potatoes –skin on– in a saucepan with abundant water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or until they are soft. Remove and leave aside to cool. Peel the potatoes, mash them with a fork and reserve.
- Place the bacalao in a pot with water and bring to a boil over a medium heat. When it starts boiling, remove from the heat and leave aside to cool. Take the bacalao out, remove its skin and any bones that it might have. Then mash to separate all the fish flakes. Reserve.
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk over a medium temperature until it starts bubbling. Keep warm.
- Heat some olive oil together with the crushed garlic cloves over a medium temperature, so that the oil gets infused with the garlic. Cook for 10 minutes, then discard the garlic cloves and keep the oil warm.
- Place the bacalao and the potatoes in a blender. Add a bit of the warm milk and start blending whilst you slowly pour the rest of the milk, little by little.
- Once you are done, repeat the same operation with the garlic-infused oil, pouring it little by little whilst you blend the rest of the ingredients so that it emulsifies. Season to taste.
- Your bacalao brandade is now ready. Let it cool down and put into a piping bag. Stuffed the piquillo peppers being careful not to break them. Place the peppers in an oven-safe dish and reserve.
To make the parsley oil:
- Blend the parsley and the oil together until you get an emulsified vivid green colour oil. Reserve.
To make the piquillo sauce:
- Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the chopped garlic. Poach over a medium heat until the garlic starts turning gold.
- Add the piquillo peppers and the tomato puree. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the cayenne flakes, the hot pimenton and the sherry vinegar and cook for an extra minute. Finally add the single cream and cook for an extra minute.
- Place everything in a blender and blend thoroughly until you get a smooth paste. Season to taste and keep warm.
Putting everything together:
- Bake the stuffed peppers in a pre-heated oven at 180ºC for 7 minutes.
- Add some piquillo sauce to each of the plates. Place the peppers on top and drizzle with some drops of the parsley oil. Decorate with some corn salad and serve warm.