Whoever had the idea to dry the pods of sweet red peppers and grind them to a powder was a genius. Thus are the origins of paprika, and we have Christopher Columbus to thank for bringing this spice to Europe from Central America, paving the way for a limitless wealth of paprika recipes from all over the globe, from Indian lamb kebabs to Cornish cheese fondue.
Being made from peppers, paprika has a striking red colour and comes in several varieties. It can be hot or sweet, smoked or unsmoked, and is often distinguished by where it was made, with Spanish paprika and Hungarian paprika being most popular in European countries.
Paprika is incredibly versatile and is a fantastic way to add sweet, peppery aroma to soups, stews and marinades. Paprika really comes alive when it's cooked, be it with meat, fish or vegetables, and is a firm friend of Indian and Moroccan cuisine, where it is often paired with aromatic spices such as cumin and cloves.
Try paprika in a spicy marinade, for example, Alfred Prasad's lamb kebab recipe, which combines paprika with raw papaya, garlic, chilli and fennel, or sprinkle some on roasted potatoes, as Marcus Waring does in his roast beef recipe.
Smoked paprika is best reserved for dishes that work well with smoky flavours, such as in Marcus Wareing's haricot bean recipe, served with monkfish.