Migas de pastor, a dish of stale bread crumbs mixed with the goodies at hand, liberally seasoned with sweet paprika powder, aka pimentón, and garlic, and stir-fried in plenty of olive oil, was a staple food among the shepherds that roamed the Spanish cañadas or droveways with their cattle.
Migas de pastor literally means shepherd’s crumbs (click this link for the pronunciation). It was my grandmother María who taught me to make genuine migas, dicing candeal bread, a very dense-crumbed, hard wheat bread typical from Castilla, into very small cubes. As a food which was prepared with stale bread and whatever the peasants or shepherds had at hand, it can be as rich or as simple as we want. Customarily some charcuterie is added, mainly chorizo, and a few vegetables like Italian peppers often find their way into the crumbs.
The bread crumbs can be either diced or shredded. As it often happens in Spain, there are those who claim migas made with perfectly diced bread are not genuine, while of course others will tell you just the opposite. Do exactly as you please. This is a free country, so far.
- 1 loaf of dense crumbed, stale bread
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp sweet pimentón, Spanish paprika powder
- Some water
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 chorizos for frying
- Half a red or green Italian pepper (or both)
- Some diced Spanish ham (optional)
- Bacon rashers at will
- 120 ml (1/2 cup) virgin olive oil
- Dice or shred the loaf of stale bread, don't skip the crust. Put the crumbs in a salad bowl big enough to hold everything.
- Add the salt and the pimentón and toss and turn to coat all the bread crumbs. Sprinkle some water while turning so that the interior of the crumbs stays tender, as the crumbs will be left to rest overnight. Don't overdo the water.
- Cover with a kitchen cloth and leave overnight.
- The next day, peel the garlic cloves and slice them. Peel off the skin of the chorizos and slice or dice them. Cut the rest of the charcuterie into smallish pieces, if using.
- Pour the olive oil into a deep frying pan (a wok is great) and heat to medium. Fry the garlic first and take it out whenever it starts to brown. The garlic has infused all its flavor into the oil
- Slice the Italian pepper and stir-fry till wilted. Fish it out and set aside.
- Tip the charcuterie into the oil and stir-fry till it begins to brown.
- Then tip the crumbs into the oil and stir-fry the whole mixture, stirring all the time so that the bread doesn't burn, until the crumbs have soaked up the oil and are golden and crispy.
- Return the Italian pepper to the pan for a few tosses and turns. Serve immediately while piping hot with a nice glass of Spanish rosé wine.
Tips for perfect migas de pastor or fried bread crumbs
- As we said above, it’s essential that the bread used has a dense crumb. No ciabattas nor baguettes allowed. Please.
- However it may come as a surprise, if you skip the charcuterie and the veggies and prepare very plain migas, you can eat them alongside a hot thick chocolate drink. We swear it’s a very typical merienda (afternoon snack) in some chilly towns and villages of Castilla, like Alcalá de Henares, the hometown of Miguel de Cervantes. If you’d been there in the winter you’d understand…
- Besides being served as tapas, meriendas (afternoon snack) and breakfasts all over the country, migas de pastor can be served as a starter of a whole meal as well.
- Please don’t skip the virgin olive oil… besides being one of the healthiest fats around it really adds to the flavor of the dish. Migas won’t be migas if you use another type of oil. We are very particular about this. And migas do soak up a lot of oil; this is not a diet tapa.
- We strongly recommend to use genuine sweet paprika from Spain, the ubiquitous pimentón dulce, if you can get hold of it. It has a smoky flavor all of its own and it’s liberally added to a lot of typical dishes in Spain. If you have some pimentón left over it won’t go to waste, we promise you. Because you’ll love it.
- The charcuterie used for frying doesn’t need to be of superb quality. So please, no need to use Ibérico pork charcuterie in this one.
- Another great accompaniment for migas are freshly picked grapes.
- Our best tip: serve migas in small bowls, tapas-sized, for a surprising breakfast or an Iberian-flavored brunch… perfect.
And do you know one of the best ways to serve migas de pastor? Alongside a fried egg or with the egg perched on top… Migas de pastor and eggs are a match made in heaven. Any Spaniard would tell you so.