Paprika is the ground bright red powder from sweet and hot dried peppers. It is much milder than cayenne pepper with a characteristic sweetness, and it is a favourite ingredient in European cookery. Hungarian or Spanish, hot or sweet, smoked or unsmoked, these clay-red powders all bring a distinct flavour to the dishes they are added to.
Paprika comes in a surprising array of flavours. Varieties that were previously obscure in the UK are becoming more commonly visible on supermarket shelves or in specialist delicattessens.
In Austria and Hungary, paprika is a main flavouring in meat stews such as goulash. Eastern Europeans use it to flavour venison stews and soured cabbage and other vegetable dishes. In Spain and Mexico paprika is used to flavour chorizo salami, which is eaten raw and in fresh chorizo sausages, which are skinned and crumbled into dishes to impart a spicy paprika flavour to the dish. Portuguese cooks use paprika to flavour fish stews and salt cod.
Experiment with the different varieties, using smoked paprika to bring a smoky richness or hot paprika to really attack the tastebuds and catch the imagination of the mouth. Use it to give spicy depth to lamb, chicken and fish dishes or try sprinkling a pinch over the yolk of a fried egg or creamy scrambled eggs.