The secret weapon of camper van cooking?

You know the stuff. It's smoked paprika, Spanish essential, used in everything from paella to chorizo and made by slowly grinding peppers that have been dried over oak fires. This tin was given to me by a chef friend. Knowing I was nervous about cooking in front of the camera for One Man and his Campervan in the spring of 2010, he pressed this little tin into my hand and said kindly "If you ever get stuck, use this." I accepted it willingly. It turned out to be good advice and I've never been without a tin in the van or at home since.
Smoked paprika is great for those times when you look in the cooler and scratch your head. Seem familiar? Those times when you stare at those chicken breasts that have to be used up, desperate for a little inspiration. When risotto has been done to death, the griddle needs a wash and the lemon and tarragon has gone, it's time to bring out the big gun. Bring out the hot smoked paprika, give it a rub, chuck it in a frying pan, over the coals or under the grill and bingo - excited taste buds!
In One Man and his Camper Van I made a simple rub with the contents of this very tin with sea salt and crushed black pepper to spice up a rack of rare breed pork ribs. It proved to be perfect, with just the right amount of smoke and flavour to add depth and spice to the sweet and juicy ribs. Cooked first in foil then charred slightly over an open fire, they were delicious. Sitting round a drfitwood fire in the dunes behind Lunan Bay, on the east coast of Scotland, on a fine June evening I toasted my friend and his ability to give me something without treating me like an idiot. That was a generous thing to do.
So there it is, giving away other people's trade secrets. My friend won't mind sharing. He likes to see people enjoy food as much as he does. And of course I don't mind sharing because if it wasn't for sharing, learning from friends, reading, talking to those who know and being curious, none of us would ever learn anything.

Still stuck for things to do with that chicken? "Three ways with chicken" on page 129 of The Camper Van Coast may give you a few more ideas...


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