Just before Easter I was in Barcelona, a city with a totally inspiring food culture. A walk around the Mercado de la Boqueria, the City's central food market, gives you a sense of the passion the Spanish have for their produce and cuisine.
The Spanish are one of the biggest consumers of beans in Europe, they absolutely love them and are connoisseurs of the best quality. A recent episode of Radio 4's 'The Food Programme', 'How Spain does Beans' highlighted the difference in quality between tinned pulses and the ones in glass jars. If you taste them side by side you quickly realise that chickpeas in a jar are much softer with a creamy texture and a much stronger flavour.
So with the tastes and smells of Barcelona still fresh in my mind and with the recent press about the quality of Spanish legumes, here is a Spanish recipe for you based on the humble chickpea.
If you've ever thought vegetarian food is slightly dull, hold on to your hats... this one absolutely packs in the flavour. The soft creamy chickpeas are cooked in a richly flavoured tomato sauce with a good splash of Fino sherry, dried chilli and smoked paprika. The dish is finished with roasted peppers, creamy aioli made with olive oil, a scattering of fresh parsley and a chunk of grilled sourdough.
This makes a really satisfying mid week main course or a fantastic starter or tapas dish. It's a one pot classic that can easily be prepared ahead of time and reheated just before serving.
Serves 4 as a main course
For the chickpea stew
1 white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Mulato chilli or Ancho chilli, seeds and stalk removed, finely diced
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
A sprig of fresh thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
A good splash of Fino sherry (about half a small wine glass)
1 can Martinete tomate frito
2 jars Burcol Spanish chickpeas, drained
100g Baby Leaf Spinach, washed
1 pack caramelised Spanish peppers, sliced into strips
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
Fresh parsley, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Heat a heavy-bottomed casserole pot and pour in some extra virgin olive oil to coat the base.
2. Gently fry the onions with the dried chilli for around 5 minutes, until the onions start to caramelise.
3. Add in the chopped garlic, fresh thyme, bay leaves and smoked paprika. Continue cooking gently for another 5 minutes.
4. Pour in the tomate frito and a healthy splash of Fino sherry, keep cooking for another 5 minutes.
5. Add in the drained chickpeas, place a lid on and gently cook for 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, add the baby leaf spinach, mix through and replace the lid.
6. Meanwhile, make the aioli. Separate the egg yolk and mix with the garlic, salt and red wine vinegar. Place a cloth under your bowl to stop it moving about and slowly whisk in the olive oil. The mayonnaise will start thickening up as you whisk in the oil, once you've added about half the oil, add in a tablespoon of cold water. The cold water helps to stabilize your mayonnaise and stop it from splitting, it also loosens the consistency to make it more of a drizzling mayo - you may decide to add more than 1 tablespoon of cold water to get the right consistency.
7. Once the chickpeas have gently cooked for around 30 minutes, turn the heat off, fold in the sliced red peppers, add a couple of teaspoons of sherry vinegar and serve into warm bowls. Drizzle over some aioli add some fresh parsley and serve with some grilled sourdough.
Enjoy! And foodies don't forget to tag us in your social post and leave a review below when you cook this at home! Ben x
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The beauty of making a paella - NO STIRRING! Get it on and go and do something else, the results are stunning. There are so many variations of this Catalan classic and (just like a risotto) there are so many different ingredients that you can use. When by the coast, fish and shellfish rule, the further inland, chicken, rabbit, sausage are the key. To make a good paella, there are a few things that you need to get right, the rest will take care of itself.
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