We tend to associate Spain with earthy, red colours. The Spanish flag, rioja, chorizo, many stews and casseroles, and, of course, the sun in the sky above the Costas – all these are characterised by a lovely warm red glow.
Pimentón, the spice that is used to colour and add a unique, often smoky, taste to many Spanish dishes, is certainly an earthy red. It’s the colour of flame, hot sun and vibrant flavours (and yes, I know that flavours, technically, don’t have a colour, but you know what I mean)
Just in case you didn’t know (but being Lorca students you probably do know), pimentón is actually the same thing as paprika. Paprika is associated mainly with Hungarian and central European cooking, but pimentón is often smoked, resulting in the aforementioned, distinctive, earthy flavour. Paprika/pimentón is made from the air-dried fruits of a chilli pepper, the species Capiscum annuum if you really want to know
I did know all this myself, but one thing I didn’t know, until I researched this article, is that paprika/pimentón actually isn’t a European spice. The chillies from which it is made are actually from Latin America. The Spanish and Portuguese colonists brought them back from the New World and their use then spread from Iberia across the rest of Europe.
The word pimentón dates from the sixteenth century in Spain, and, to my surprise, it (or rather paprika) didn’t become popular in Hungary, where we really associate it with the national cuisine, until the 19th century. There, it was normally a hot spice, but in the 1920s, a plant that produced sweet fruit was discovered and now the flavours and taste of paprika/pimentón can vary from mild to spicily hot. As with other chillies, the degree of heat depends on whether the seeds are retained when it is powdered to make pimentón.