Making our own grilled pinchos in Asturias, Spain

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A pincho (also known as pintxo or pinchu) is a small snack, typically eaten in the bars of Northern Spain while hanging out with friends or relatives. Pinchos are all about eating and drinking with your mates at any time of the day, with delicious toppings often being ‘spiked’ with a toothpick to a base, such as a piece of bread. Bars and restaurants often hold regional competitions for the best pincho, so on this note we decided to copy the professionals and have our own pincho celebration, using the grill to make the most of the fine weather.

The pinchos we made were prepared and served over a period of several hours. Here are a couple of recipes:

Herbed minced cod cake served with Greek yoghurt with sumac, mango, red onion and chilli in a homemade sourdough pitta.

To make the cod cake mince 400 grams of cod and combine with one clove of crushed garlic, a handful of chopped parsley, the finely grated zest of a couple of lemons, a teaspoon of cumin, half a teaspoon of chilli, salt and pepper, and one beaten egg. Shape into small patties and refrigerate before grilling on an oiled medium grill for three minutes on each side until browned (use a grill topper to prevent bits falling into the BBQ). Serve with Greek yogurt sprinkled with sumac, salt, pepper, and finely chopped chives. In a separate bowl combine chopped mango, finely sliced red onions, and finely chopped parsley and chives. Serve everything in a small homemade (or shop bought) sourdough pita bread.

Courgettes stuffed with Manchego cheese, cashews, lemon, cumin and herbs topped with a herb and nut salsa.

To make, scrape out 6 large courgette halves with a spoon, leaving a 1cm wall – then brush the empty halves with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Create the filling by combining the finely chopped flesh of the courgettes (squeeze over a colander to remove water) with a crushed clove of garlic, 60 grams of grated Manchego cheese, a large handful of sourdough breadcrumbs, the grated zest of a couple of lemons, 60 grams of lightly toasted cashews, a heaped teaspoon of ground cumin, a large handful of chopped parsley and chives, salt and pepper. Fill the courgettes with the filling. Grill on a medium grill for 30 minutes until set and browned. Serve with a salsa made from olive oil, a few more finally chopped and toasted cashews, a handful of extra herbs, some lemon juice, and some salt and pepper (loosely derived from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi).

And here is a rundown of what else was presented and consumed!

Crispy Spanish morcilla (blood sausage) with caramelised lime-soaked apple, sprinkled chives and maple syrup, served on a freshly baked crumpet.

Dried courgette, Greek yoghurt, salmon caviar and fresh dill, served on a freshly grilled potato latka.

Ceviche made from hake with avocado, tomato and red onion salsa with aji chilli, served on a lightly grilled arepa.

Grilled prawns on a romesco sauce in a freshly cooked artichoke heart with a single caper.

Scallop, wrapped in bacon, pan fried over the grill with a stewed apple confit and maple syrup drizzle.

If you are lucky enough to be able to travel to Northern Spain to visit the bars and restaurants serving Pinchos, some of the best places to visit are Bilbao and San Sebastian, for the large number of pincho bars. Pinchos are often eaten as dinner, so the best time to find them is in the evening, after work, when all the locals go out for a pincho and a drink.

However, if you aren’t able to visit Northern Spain, you can always make your own, and they can be as complicated or as easy as you like. We hope the ideas above give you a taste of what you could make, but otherwise if you select your favourite fish/seafood, meat, cheese or vegetable, you can combine them in any way you like and serve them warm, or cold, on bread or any other base you like. Enjoy!

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