This recipe has a long story: It has been in the family’s luggage for over one and a half century… It most certainly originated in the small Spanish village of Altea, crossed the water to Oran in Algeria at the end of the 19th century, hopped to Casablanca for my grand-mother’s bridal journey, recrossed the Med back to the south of France in the 70s and finally came with me over the channel, as I now make it in London. This is a gem and I feel very altruistic giving it to the world! But then secrets in the kitchen are best shared with other cooks! That is how the best recipes live on…
It is really a small coca or empanada but stuffed with a “frita” consisting of fried sweet peppers, fried tomatoes, garlic and anchovies. It is made as a starter or as an nibble to enjoy over a glass of dry sherry.
Our picnic in Richmond park – dainty treats…
Ingredients for the “frita”:
- Sweet red and green peppers, 2/3
- Big tomatoes, 2/3
- Garlic cloves, 2
- anchovy fillets
Plunge the tomatoes into a bol of boiling water then remove them and peel them with a sharp knife. The blistered skin will come off easily.
Core and cut them up and squeeze some of the seeds out but do not worry if there are some left.
Clean the peppers and put them under the grill to blacken the skin. Once cooled, most of the skin will peel easily.
Fry the cubed tomatoes and the chopped garlic. Add strips of peppers. Cook until soft and mushy. Then add some bits of anchovy into the cooled mix. This means no extra salt is needed!
Add a little black pepper. Reserve in the fridge until you need it. This filling can be done ahead of time and even frozen if necessary.
Ingredients for the pastry:
- Fine flour, 250g
- Boiling water, 500ml
- Salt, pinch
- Olive oil, 2 Tbsp
- Sugar, 2 tsp
The trick for this dough is to throw the whole lot of the measured flour into the salted and boiling water in ONE go! Add the sugar and olive oil. Turn speedily with a wooden spoon and turn the heat off when the dough comes away from the sides of the pan into a glossy ball. Let it to cool aside. Again, this dough can be made the day before or kept in the fridge for a few days. This amount will make a good baker dozen of coquetas.
When you are ready to assemble, spread the dough on a cool clean surface with a floured rolling pin. Keep it as thin as you can but not to breaking point. Keep it floured so it does not stick to the surface or the pin.
Cut up circles with a large scone cutter or a sharp knife around a small saucer. Place a small amount of filling in the middle and join the two sides like a Cornish pasty, pressing the edges down with a fork.
Prepare a thick bottom frying pan with a good glass of oil in it. When the oil sizzles around a pea of dough, lower each coquetas and fry until both sides are nice and brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm or at room temperature with the aforementioned glass of sherry! Some black olives are good with it too.
When I was a child, we had this in the sun filled lounge at the aperitif, just before lunch during the week ends and sometime mid week. In France, in many families, you will also get an aperitif before lunch, not just before dinner. As we grew up, we were even allowed the odd sip of wine with our coquets so for us this is was a festive and grown-up treat. Children tend not to like the bitter taste of green pepper but in coquetas it was enhanced by the saltiness of the anchovies and the sweetness of the tomatoes. The pastry must be light and puffed up with a chewiness that I am still very fond of. This is not a quick family recipe but it has its place here despite that because of its archive quality ! Be aware that it will take the best part of a day to achieve… This is love’s labour…
Some recipes are heritage. I confess that I am excessively thrilled to be now making coquetas at home and teaching my children how to do them. And even though they not as good as Manille’s, they are pretty close!