Russian roulette peppers a no-brainer
IT'S a pint-sized pepper that really packs some punch.
Spain has known about it for centuries, but Australia's top chefs have finally realised what all the fuss is about.
While the unusual thumb-sized Padron peppers are renowned for their unique sweet flavour, don't be deceived: one-in-10 is hot, hot, hot.
As a result, they are often referred to as "Russian roulette peppers" - you are never quite know what you're in for after biting into one.
Traditionally, Padron peppers are served as tapas sauted in olive oil and seasoned liberally with salt in Spanish bars, where they remain the most popular dish while in season.
Given that a dry climate such as the New Mexico desert is an ideal place to grow the peppers,
Conondale in the Sunshine Coast hinterland seems an unusual choice for Midyim Eco's Richard Mohan to grow a local crop.
But the peppers, which originate in Galicia, Spain, are thriving.
And as the only grower of that type of pepper in Australia,
Richard is supplying the highly sought-after fruit to chefs, travellers and foodies craving something to add extra zing to their cooking.
All the produce grown on the 130ha farm supplies restaurants in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and a large portion of the business is through mail orders.
Locally, the peppers market is centred around Noosa.
Richard said people travelled far and wide to taste the peppers in popular Spanish bars in Sydney and Melbourne, especially.
"As people travel, they tell their friends about it," he said.
"It is like a virus: it just spreads.
"Travellers in particular who have gone to Spain come back expecting to be able to walk into a shop and get the peppers."
This year, Richard's produce including the Padron pepper, O Couto pepper and Calcots will feature at Brisbane's delectable festival from July 16-29.
The festival shines the spotlight on Queensland's best food and farming industries, and features some of the state's better-known food and gardening personalities.
Richard likens the festival to a big farmers' market and says the event is a good place to meet and greet producers who in turn can talk with the chefs using their fruit and vegetables.
Award-winning Sunshine Coast chef Javier Codina will be bringing a traditional Spanish influence to the festival using the Coast-grown Padron peppers and Calcots.
The menu will feature scallops from Hervey Bay paired with the peppers, along with grilled Calcots dipped in a traditional Ronesco sauce.
Richard said various restaurants used the peppers in different ways, from making a lamb dish with sauce hum to standing alone as a side dish served with other pepper varieties.
For him, though, peppers should be served only one way: simply.
Put two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, throw in a handful of peppers, turn up the heat and saute for a couple of minutes before finally adding salt to taste.
Seared Scallops In Salsa Verde with Padron Peppers and White Beans
12 scallops each
20 Padron/Guernica peppers each
200g cooked white beans
6 cloves chopped garlic ….spanish if possible
100ml.white wine /albarino is very good
200ml fish stock
10 sprigs of chopped flat parsley
sea salt & pepper to taste
100ml spanish olive oil (my favorite is arbequina blend)
1. Season and dust the scallops with the flour
2. In a hot pan add the olive oil, seared the scallops & reserve
3. With the same oil and pan shallow fried the padron peppers & reserve
4. Add more olive oil in the pan if needed and fried the garlic
5. Deglace with the wine
6. Add the fish stock
7. Reduce until right consistency
8. Add the white beans
9. Place the scallops & peppers in the pan while boiling
10. Add the parsley & rectify seasoning
11. Finish the dish with a dash of good spanish extra virgin olive oil.