If there’s one European cuisine that knows its way around every part of the pig, it’s Spanish.
The list goes on. After all, it was Andalucia, not Aberdeen or Amsterdam, which coined the phrase ‘you only part of a pig you can’t eat is its squeal’.
But this one is perhaps simplest of all, and a lifelong family favourite- pinchos morunos. The beauty of this- apart from ease and speed and flavour- is the distillation of centuries of Spanish history- religious and cultural and martial- in one delicious and evocative bite.
The quick version goes like this. Over years the Moors, namechecked in this recipe’s title invaded Spain from what is now Algeria and Morocco; and for centuries they ruled, bringing with them engineering and culture and advances previously unknown on the peninsula. That influence made itself irrevocably known in the architecture (see the Alcázar of Seville, or the Great Mosque of Córdoba) and the infrastructure (astronomy, irrigation, agriculture). They brought with them foods we think of as essentially Spanish now: where would we be without saffron and rice? It took centuries of the Reconquista to finally reclaim Spain for the Catholic kings- Granada fell in 1492- but this was in name only: the traces would never vanish, because after almost 800 years their still-palpable Islamic influences were tightly woven through Spanish life.
Of course, soon after the last vestiges of Moorish strength had been vanquished from Granada, came The Spanish Inquisition.
Which nobody expected.
And what better testament to this intertwining, this conjoining of cultures, than a dish using imported Moorish spices to flavour the meat forbidden to Muslims?
If you’ll pardon the pun- it’s history incarnate.
Now- as per my earlier post on croquetas- this is how we make them at home. As any good Liverpudlian will tell you, their mum’s unique Scouse recipe beats everyone else’s. It’s pretty much the same with pinchos: every family will have their own version. Some will add bay leaf, others red wine vinegar, others a handful of thyme leaves. This is the way my grandmother taught my mother.
1 pork tenderloin (you can use chicken, lamb or beef: but pork is more typical. Besides, it fits in with the historical slant better…)
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (pimentón- sweet, ‘dulce’ or hot, ‘picante’ is up to you))
1 tsp dried oregano
Olive oil- a hefty glug or three
Cut your tenderloin into bite-sized pieces.
Combine the marinade ingredients (everything else- this is not fussy, ornate cooking) in a bowl and marinate your pork pieces for a bare minimum of two hours, but the longer the better. Two days is not unheard-of; after all, you want the flavours to get to know each other.
Skewer (the pincho of the title) the pieces and grill under a fierce heat. Baste with leftover marinade if you are worried about the meat drying out.
These are a classic tapa and make a wonderful meal: for something so-good-it-shouldn’t-be-legal, barbecue them over woodsmoke.
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.