It was a hasty way to begin a blog. My (whim-like) decision to travel nowhere without my beautiful new tin of paprika – and launch a blog about it – was acted on with a conscious swiftness designed to curb my cautious side from advising my impulsive one to stop and think.
Perhaps that was a good thing – I’m still waiting to find out. But my impulse meant that I opened new Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts, alongside my Wordpress site, quickly and without too much thought. My tin of La Dalia Pimentón de la Vera, so pretty to my eye, was photographed and used with merry and naïve abandon.
Then the lovely Yosune Arjone got in touch. A gentle message sent to my Facebook account expressing curiosity about the crazy person who was posting photos of La Dalia Pimentón on her FB and twitter profiles (of course, Yosune didn’t actually call me crazy).
I explained. And apologised that I hadn’t been in touch to say that (with permission) I would love to be able to use images of La Dalia Pimentón de la Vera in my new blog. Yosune passed on my apologies to her boss. An inaudible but virtual sigh of relief in the next message I had from her. La Dalia had correctly concluded that my actions (or lack of courtesy) had been borne of sentiment rather than careful calculation.
So now it’s time to introduce La Dalia Pimentón de la Vera, because it’s not just a pretty tin. It also tastes as good as Gwen at Finca Las Cañadas promised me.
Let’s start with a small bite of History and a Romantic Fact: Álvaro Hernández, the company’s manager, is the grandson of La Dalia’s founder, D Valeriano Hernandez Martin. He founded the company in 1913. This same entrepeneur declared his love for Alvaro’s grandmother with a beautiful dahlia flower, hence the name.
A bigger slice of history
Peppers were introduced into Spain by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on his return from his second trip to the New World. He presented them to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella at the Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe in Extremadura. The pepper became a key ingredient in Spanish cooking, and from the 17th century was ground to form the powder we know in Spanish as Pimentón.
Where is La Dalia Pimentón de la Vera produced?
The fertile region of La Vera in the north of Cáceres province which enjoys a microclimate that is perfect for the cultivation of the pepper plant. Pimentón produced from this region was granted a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in the 1990s.
How does La Dalia make its Pimentón?
Using traditional La Vera methods: hand-picking the peppers, then very slowly smoking them in smokehouses over fires made from the wood of Holm oaks and/or oaks. The peppers are carefully turned by hand every day, then stone ground. This long, pain-staking process gives La Vera Pimentón its distinctive deep red colour and delicate, light smoky taste and aroma. Its intensity means that only a small amount needs to be used when adding it to recipes. Which means that a 70g tin goes a very long way :-). The deep red powder is called oro rojo (red gold).
Where else in Spain is paprika produced?
In Murcia in Southern Spain, but the method used is different. It is produced by sun-drying the peppers first rather than smoking them. The pimentón produced here also has a PDO.
I tried to break the ice after the initial awkward communications between Yosune and me, and fired off a few quick questions to La Dalia’s boss:
- Name and job title: Álvaro Hernández, Manager.
- Favourite type of pimentón? Bittersweet (agridulce)
- Describe the taste/smell of La Dalia Pimentón? Smoked flavour and a extraordinary bouquet. Authenticity and tradition.
- Your favourite Spanish dish with paprika? Extremadura crumbs.
- Your favourite foreign dish with paprika? I have not tasted any foreign food with paprika.
- Is La Dalia the BEST Pimentón de la Vera? La Dalia is one of the best. [Modest – I like that].
- Why is it different? It is different not only for the quiality and exquisite selection of sources materials, but by the history that makes our brand.
- Should every kitchen in Spain have a tin of La Dalia Pimentón? Of course!! that would be great!!. But unfortunately it is not like this. Our product has a low rotation.
- Does every meal in Spain contain paprika? Not all foods containing paprika, but every day it is more noticeable.
- Do you take a tin of La Dalia Pimentón with you when you travel? If so, which one? Yes, I try to always carry a few tins of sweet paprika [a man after my own heart]
- Who is the longest serving employee at La Dalia? A woman working in packing. She has been working there for 25 years.
- Is the family still involved in day-to-day running of the business? Who are the key people? Yes, actually there are the grandchildren of the founder: María Teresa Hernández Nieto (the Quiality’s chief) and Álvaro Hernández Nieto, (La Dalia´s Manager).
- How many people are employed today? 14 people
- Is business booming? Do people know about La Dalia outside Spain? Actually La Dalia is enjoying a period of stability. In the last 6 years we have grown considerably, and we must consolidate this growth. Our brand is better positioned every day in foreign markets.
- You are active on social media. Is this an old well-established family company moving with the times? Plans for the future? Yes, we are a company in constant evolution. It is our philosophy, maintaining the tradition from father to son of a product like La Vera’s paprika, rooted in the region of the same name, from the time of Christopher Columbus.
So now I know more about the people behind my pretty tin of pimentón, and so do you. However, Álvaro doesn’t know of any foreign dishes prepared with paprika. So that is my task.
I have a dreary lot of broccoli and cauliflower lurking in the bottom of my fridge. Three things are informing what I might do with it.
- Having watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Wage War on Waste this week, I shan’t be chucking said tired veg in the bin.
- I learnt today that Indian restaurants remain the most popular foreign food restaurants amongst Britons. The expert I listened to on the radio described the ingredients one might put into a Balti – onion, garlic, cumin, ginger, paprika.
- The fact that Álvaro confessed to not knowing any foreign dishes prepared with paprika.
Of course – I must make (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall style) a vat of Indo-Spanish once-tired veg soup.
Eureka! Or should it be Paprika!
For more on La Dalia Pimentón de la Vera: http://www.pimenton-ladalia.com
You can also follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (or they can find you – as I know!)
A burst of a Facebook exchange after the initial publishing of this post highlighted the health benefits of paprika – good for lots of reasons…it’s an anti-inflammatory, contains Vitamins A and E, and more. A daily dash of paprika is becoming even more of a must for me – whether or not I’m travelling 😉