Donegal V Portugal – International Gambas Pil Pil Test

Gambas Pil Pil Test (9 of 14)

I rarely have a swipe at my fellow bloggers. There are enough ignorant savages out there ready to have a go. So I really should not wade in. But, I do need to get this off my chest before we start. Some bloggers will sell their souls and prostrate themselves for a bit of unearned product. The mere mention of “free samples” gets them to forget their principles, their integrity and their independence.  Shame on them. 

Having said all that, those lovely people up in Donegal Rapeseed Oil were kind enough to send me an outer of their fine product. What better way to celebrate than with an international taste test, pitting their premium grade oil against some very fine Portuguese olive oil. Seeing as we were going international, we went with a Spanish dish Gambas Pil Pil, using Argentinian prawns, accompanied by Chilean wine and Irish ‘French’ bread.

Ingredients from all over the place. Will Donegal hold it's own in international company?

Ingredients from all over the place. Will Donegal hold its own in international company?

The full International ingredients list

  • 3 tablespoons of Donegal Rapseed Oil – Irish
  • 3 tablespoons of Cold pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Portuguese
  • 20 uncooked prawns – Argentinian
  • Half a big bulb of purple garlic – French
  • Generous handful of fresh parsley – Irish
  • Teaspoon of paprika – Spanish
  • Teaspoon of chili flakes – Spanish
  • French bread to accompany – Irish
  • Dry white Rothschild estate wine  – Chilean

First, get your oven up to 220º C (440º F). Get the oil into your traditional, genuine Spanish dishes.

Nice light, slightly green colour to the Portuguese.

Nice light, slightly green colour to the Portuguese.

The Donegal, like their county colours showing bright yellow.

The Donegal, like their county colours showing more golden. Sorry it doesn’t show in the photo!

Get the oils into the oven and heat them for 10 minutes. Use that time to chop the mountain of garlic.

A mountain of finest French garlic. Boy it smells good.

A mountain of finest French garlic. Boy it smells good.

Next, chop the parsley. There is something good about the nationalistic green of the Irish parsley. No bias here, I promise.

Don't be shy with the parsley. It adds taste, texture and colour.

Don’t be shy with the parsley. It adds taste, texture and colour.

Very carefully, lift the oil out of the oven. It is very, very hot. Then quickly add the garlic and prawns.

Half the garlic in each dish. Half the prawns likewise. We don't want to be seen as biased.

Half the garlic in each dish. Half the prawns likewise. We don’t want to be seen as biased.

Sprinkle the parsley, paprika and chili flakes on both.

A very international dish, despite the few ingredients.

A very international dish, despite the few ingredients.

Get them back into the oven quickly. They will need between 5 and 10 minutes to cook the garlic and prawns. Use the time to roughly tear the Irish French bread, to pour the wine and to set up the comparative tasting station (a chopping board).

Carefully lift the dishes on to the tasting station.

Carefully lift the dishes on to the tasting station.

With forks at the ready, begin the scientific comparative tasting.

The Donegal is up first. Nothing wrong with that!

The Donegal is up first. Nothing wrong with that!

The Donegal oil works really well. It is delicious. It does show a darker colour though the paprika could be responsible for some of that.

The Portuguese is very tasty too.

The Portuguese is very tasty too.

All even after the initial prawn tasting. Time to move on to the bread dunking.

The rape seed oil is pretty dunky.

The rapeseed oil is pretty dunky.

The rapeseed oil is pretty viscous, even when very hot. It dunks well, soaking nicely into the bread. It shows its own flavour and carries the garlic flavour really well too. This is important stuff.

Portugal holds it's own in the dunking test.

Portugal holds its own in the dunking test.

The olive oil is thinner when heated. It still holds flavour and soaks well into the bread.

The result
Both were excellent. The Donegal allowed more of its own flavour to come through( a good thing). The Portuguese was possibly more subtle. Both cooked and held the flavour of the garlic and the prawns very well. Both performed very well in the bread dunking, a vital part of the test.

Importantly, both were subtle enough to allow themselves to be cut by the slightly acidic wine. It turned out to be a fun test and a lovely meal. I think we were the real winners.

Final note on blogging and free stuff: I feel completely comfortable in pitting the gifted Donegal Rapeseed Oil against the Portuguese Olive Oil because both were free. My good friend Rodrigo, himself a Portuguese, brought the latter back from his homeland. I know, it’s clear from this thin excuse that I have no morals at all. 

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  • A favourite tapas of mine. Very nice, Conor. I’ll be in Portugal this time next week so may have to try a few taste tests of my own.

    • I am suffering deep envy Adam. Particularly as the temperature is plummeting here.

  • As a gambas pil pil-ophile I salute you good sir! this looks amazing

    • They were both pretty tasty. Thanks be to goodness. It would have been pretty difficult to diss either.

  • A good way to loosen the morals I say. Those prawns look fabulous.

  • That looks absolutely gorgeous. Congrats on your award by the way! I was there too. You walked passed me and I said to my husband ‘there’s yer man from one man’s meat!’ He loves cooking too and hadn’t followed any blogs until I said he should definitely follow yours, so now he can cook me all sorts of lovely things. Looking forward to more! 🙂

    • Thanks Olivia. I suspect your husband might not be so happy when he realises what he has got into. It was a cracking night and I was confined to the couch for Sunday. I find I can party hard only in my head these days.

  • SHAME. Lovely dish though. Really does look amazing – oh, the colours!

    • Thanks Nick. I hang my head in abject shame….

  • Yes!

  • I’ll never get freebies – my cooking skill and the finished product quality is inversely proportional to the quantity of wine consumed while creating. But there it goes.

    • Yes, but you have more fun.

      • Yes its true and I’m not even going to deny it. Except for conferences. I hate conferences. Which I am off to soon. And to add insult to already considerable injury, its in Birmingham.

        • Ahhhhh. I went to a motorbike show there in the huge convention centre. God help you!

  • Quite agree blagging bloggers, it is a turn-off – unlike your pil-pil, both versions of which have me salivating and reaching for the garlic pot. Apologies, btw, as apparently I accidentally unfollowed you recently by pressing some random button – situation now rectified, I’m happy to say.

    • I thought you were on holidays Linda. Great to have you back with us.

  • *agree about* I meant to say … fumblefinger evidently much in evidence of late.

    • That’s life punishing you for abandoning me!

  • Well done Conor! I follow one gal, who keeps featuring the free stuff she gets in the land down under. Not only eats, but cookbooks. I feel that if I want to read about products I will do so on my own…Your presentation here was, again, well done! ^..^

    • Thanks Barb,
      Now, if there were cookbooks on offer…..

      • She has gotten some of those too!

  • Wow – I read the first line there Conor and I’m intrigued!!

    • I hope it lived up to the hook Rory. It was very tasty stuff.

  • This looks delish and lovely photos.

    • Thanks Richard. I enjoyed this one. It was a bit of international fun.

  • Great review my friend. I would sort either of those dishes out, no worries 🙂

    • For sure, they didn’t last long. Though the garlic breath hung around for a day or two!

  • I love this Tapas dish and you make it look so mouth watering. I really need to get some of those little dishes you have for the oven so handy for so many things. Crusty bread, lots of flavours and of course sipping a little wine sounds like the perfect evening. Love that paprika action shot! Take Care, BAM

    • Thanks BAM. The paprika really helps as it has such a vibrant colour. It’s a fun meal for sharing.

  • Very much appreciate the international theme, but prawns from Argentina when you live on an island ‘girt by sea’ [yea, yea, part of our anthem!] . . . have you overfished or what? Do like the look of that French garlic tho’ And that Down Under blogger . . . have known her well for years yet she still has not worked out I do not comment on the days all these gifts come highly praised 🙂 !!

    • Thanks Eha,
      The Donegal Rapeseed people never asked for anything nor intimated any desire for publicity. It was generous of them and I thought it worthwhile giving their great, Irish produce a trial. Rodrigo will, no doubt, look after me too. On the prawns, one has to take the best value in the fishmongers. It was Argentinian that day.
      Stay well,

  • My first visit to your blog and I’m hooked. Those shrimp tapas look fantastic , I love garlic and shrimp.

    • Hi Gerlinde,
      Thanks for visiting and for the kind comments. Do give this simple recipe a go. It is pretty tasty.

  • LOL, oh Conor, you did it again —- made me laugh and……hungry!!! Thanks. Is your head better now? Carina

    • Fully recovered, thanks be to goodness Carina. Delighted to have raised a smile.

  • Now this is how I love to eat. I cannot get over these photos. They’re so colorful, I seriously want to reach in and eat this. What a great recipe. I like how it did end up being very international. I think I’m going to make this one night next week. Maybe with some datiles too. I’ve fallen under so many other influences that I’ve neglected my beloved Espana. 🙂

    • Excellent Amanda. Do post it too. Let’s keep the international theme going!

  • Hello Conor, I would love to have garlic breath from this for a few days, thankyouverymuch! Alas, I have never received one “free” gift in my 3 years of blogging, however I did “win” some freebies in an online cooking contest. To win that one I unabashedly had all my FB friends vote for my recipes. :O So really, you have no shame at all…

    • I can live with that approach. I know of a chap who entered the County Letrim Businessman of the Year some years ago. He phoned in hundreds of votes for himself and won the competition. He was found out later. He went on to be a fraudster who is today claiming to be involved in mining in the far east. Watch out how far you take those FB promotions!

      • Well I am happy to say I only voted for myself once, as allowed. But I am also happy to say that I never plan on running for any public office. 🙂 Keep up the good work Conor, your wit and cooking skills stand on their very own.

        • You have to have faith in yourself. You get my vote too!

  • i guess this is another kind of confit Conor
    devinitely lovely prespective!
    fyi, i just made pasta and i just check that all the ingredients, each made of several different country, i guess we are united within our tummy…

    • Perhaps a new kind of United Nations. It certainly could do with an overhaul.
      End of political speech!

  • Great starter I am sure! Looks really delicious and your pictures are stunning!

    • Hi Raphaelle,
      Thanks so much for visiting and for the kind comments. I had a quick look at your blog, followed and will be back later to see some more.

  • I keep passing these little tapas dishes at the market and of these days I’m going to pick up a few of these. Well here you go. This is why I need those dishes. Love this recipe and always love your photographs.

    • Thanks,
      You have to get them and try it. the gambas pil pil is a delicious and really simple dish.

  • Hi Conor, tried your recipe last night, and it was a huge hit. Delicious!

    • Excellent Laura. I love hearing about trials of my stuff. Particularly when it turns out well. In fact, only if it turns out well!

  • glorious looking!

  • Yeeee! Lemme at it!

  • It looks delicious. Portuguese olive oil rules =)

    • I do like it. My friends from that part of the world would agree more strongly too!

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