Piperade is the quintessential Basque sauce and condiment, an indispensable basic of Basque cooking. It is essentially a slow simmered compote of sweet peppers, tomato and onions, flavored with thyme and Piment d’Espelette. Piperade can be used in many dishes, including with eggs (the photo shows a dish of eggs baked with prawns and piperade), as a sauce for fish and meats and a number of other dishes.
In the past, piperade was simmered very slowly in a earthenware pot placed in the corner of the hearth. Although this recipe is cooked on the stove top, it is important to simmer the piperade gently for best results.
Ingredients6# ripe tomatoes
3# piments longs des Landes (outside the south of France substitute green bell peppers)
1.5# panchetta (unsmoked)
12 cloves garlic
6 sprigs thyme
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 cup olive oil
1 T Piment d'Espelette (ground mild Basque chili)
- Cut the pancetta in small dice. Peel, seed and dice the tomatoes in small dice, saving any juice. Peel the onions and garlic; dice the onions finely; remove the germ from the garlic then dice finely. Remove the seeds, core and pith from the peppers and dice finely. Pick the thyme.
- In a heavy pan, sweat the pancetta very slowly in a bit of olive oil. Add the peppers and continue to cook slowly until softened. Add the onions and garlic and sweat slowly as well.
- Add the diced tomatoes and raise the heat to bring to a boil. Also add any juice from the tomatoes. Add salt, pepper and Piment d’Espelette. Add the thyme leaves and bay. When a full boil is reached, lower the heat to a very gentle simmer and let simmer covered for 20 minutes.
- Remove the cover and taste. If the tomatoes are too acid, add a pinch or two of sugar. Let simmer very gently 20-30 minutes more, uncovered, to concentrate the flavors. Raise the heat a bit the last 5 minutes if necessary to reach a thick, sauce-like consistency. Cool and store in a covered container.