Split Pea & Squash Curry

Now that we seem to have caught up (vegetable-availability-wise) with everyone who was posting squash and pumpkin recipes back in the autumn, I am finally cooking lots of warming winter dishes which include this fantastic ingredient. Having said that, it´s not actually very cold here at the moment, but it is Janaury, so I feel justified in making wintery food.

Although we didn´t put on any extra kilos over Christmas, no one could ever accuse either me or Big Man of being under weight, so recipes which are healthier and packed with vegetables are perfect for us.

A mild flavoured curry was on my list – Big Man doesn´t like them hot, and I can always add a little dried chilli at the end to turn up the heat in my own portion.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a hearty soup or more as a side dish)

  • 200g split yellow peas (the last of a stash bought over by visitors…so sad)
  • 500g squash peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 cup of tomato conserva or chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 1 onion peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
  • 1 head of garlic (you will be roasting this and only using half)
  • 2-3 cups of vegetable stock or water
  • 3 heaped teaspoons of your favourite curry mix (I usually make mine with ground turmeric, chilli, cumin, dried coriander, black pepper and cardamom seeds and then add a little fresh grated ginger when I cook)
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1 dried chilli crumbled (optional)
  • Oil for frying

Turn the oven onto a high setting and place the squash on a tray lined with foil. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle a little oil over.  Roast for about 30 minutes until soft and brown at the edges.  Put the garlic in at the same time, wrapped loosely in foil.

Start by dry frying the mustard seeds until they pop. Remove them from the pan. Add a little oil to your pan and fry the onion and garlic until they are soft, then add your curry powder and mustard seeds and fry until the lovely aromas start to come out, then add the split peas (or you could use lentils).  Now add the tomato conserva and 2 cups of the stock or water plus the crumbled chilli if using.

Cook gently until the split peas are almost soft (you may need to add more liquid, just keep an eye on them). Remove the squash and garlic from the oven and cut the squash into smaller bite sized chunks.  Add these to the split peas.  Pop half of the garlic cloves out of their skins and add to the curry. Mash the other half and cover with a little oil, it will keep for at least a week in the fridge and can be used in other dishes or dips.

Add a drop more liquid to the vegetables if necessary, cooking the curry for about 10 more minutes until everything is soft and cooked through.  You can mash some of the squash, garlic and split peas with the back of a wooden spoon, leaving some chunky.  Add salt, you´ll probably find it can take quite a lot, but the choice is yours. Eat as a thick soup or a side dish and it´s lovely served with rice or naan bread.

Delicious with a squeeze of lime juice and chopped coriander, but I didn´t have either of them so I just used lemon juice. If you like it even milder and more creamy, stir in a couple of big spoonfuls of thick creamy yogurt.

We had some leftovers, so the next day I added some more stock, yogurt and some finely chopped chard (you could use spinach, kale, cabbage) and warmed it through to make a delicious soup – I´m not sure which version I liked best!

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Callos a la Andaluza – Andalucían Tripe Stew – or Everything But The Oink

Watch out for those mountain winds

Ok, I know this is going to sound quite off putting for many people.  Tripe is a scary old thing.  But fear not, although the word “Callos” translates as tripe, I don´t actually put any into this dish (although you could).  Confused eh?

Well, let me explain.  The first time I ever ate this dish was at a Feria in a nearby hamlet.  It´s tiny, probably only a dozen houses, but it belongs to our “Municipio” and puts on an amazing fiesta every year.  One of the first of the summer in fact. They always seem to attract a good flamenco singer, they do a fantastic paella at lunchtime, and they always have plenty of good food apart from the usual pinchitos (kebabs) and montaditos (fillets of pork on bread).  Hundreds of people attend, it´s a great event apart from the winds which whip down the mountain and make hairstyles, skirts, old people and small children blow all over the place.

So, Big Man ordered me a portion of Callos which was essentially a chick pea stew with tiny chunks of meat, chorizo and morcilla in it.  I loved it and looked up the word when I got home and though “oh lord, I´ve been eating tripe”! During the almost six years I´ve lived here, I´ve only eaten it a couple of times a year as not many people make it anymore – it´s not complicated to make, but it takes time.

Of course, I recently decided that I wasn´t prepared to wait until next summer for my fix, I´d make my own.  This is where the fun started.  I asked the butcher to prepare me whatever I needed for this dish (meat wise) and that´s when I found out that her version would not include tripe.

Strange, I thought, but let´s crack on. She (yes, we have two butchers locally, and one is a woman who looks exactly like a lady butcher should look – big and jolly with fingers like sausages) got things ready.  The goodie bag included (per four person serving):

  • Two pigs trotters split down the middle
  • Some finely chopped pork tongue
  • A finely chopped pigs ear
  • Some chopped pancetta or pork belly
  • Some finely chopped cooked pigs blood

See – not so scary after all (well, maybe apart from the blood)!  I also had to buy some chorizo and morcilla and chick peas.  I´m not giving measurements here as it´s a kind of “make it up as you go along” dish.  I then asked about 20 different people how they made Callos.  Half had never made it so were of no help at al.  The others gave me 10 different ways of making it, each with their own little “twist”.

This is what I eventually came up with, and I have to say it tasted as good as the Fiesta version, and Big Man thought it was better…modesty prevented me from saying that myself of course!

Soak the chick peas overnight and the next day cook slowly for a couple of hours with a few bay leaves, 4 cloves, and a dried chilli until completely tender.  Don´t rush this, you´ll have plenty to be getting on with while they cook.

In a separate pot blanch the all the pork products, drain and put into fresh water.  Now cook slowly for a couple of hours until really tender and drain again.  Get those kitchen gloves on and pull all the tender meat off the trotters and discard the bones (or give them to your dog who will love you forever).  Now add the chunks of meat to the cooked chick peas (still in their water).  Add about 5 or 6 whole cloves of raw or roasted garlic, some saffron dissolved in water, ½ a teaspoon of sweet or hot pimentón, the whole chorizo and morcilla (which you will slice before serving) and cook for about 30 minutes.  Leave to stand for at least 15 minutes before serving (but it´s even better prepared the day before) and remove the cloves, bay leaves and dried chilli.

Make sure you have a table full of very hungry people, don´t tell them what´s in it if they´re a bit squeamish, and enjoy.  Now go for a lie down…you´ll need it!

Potaje de Lentejas – Lentil Stew

Another “Plato de Cuchara” or spoon dish – we like our pulses here in Spain.  Many of these dishes were traditional as you could feed large families with few ingredients which were not costly.  Meats are typically added at the end (usually pork products) so the beauty is that they can be vegetarian dishes too, if you prefer.

Lentils are great, as apart from being cheap, they cook fairly quickly and only need rinsing but not presoaking.

For four people as a main dish or six as a starter you´ll need

  • About 500g of lentils – we have the flat green ones here
  • Water to cover
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • Half each of a red and green pepper, chopped into bite sized chunks
  • Two tomatoes cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A couple of carrots peeled and finely diced
  • A stick of celery plus the leaves (if it has leaves).  Finely dice the celery but not the leaves.
  • 4 or 5 whole fat cloves of garlic
  • 2 medium potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes (keep these in a bowl of water separately)
  • Sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary if you have it
  • ¼ teaspoon each of pimentón and paprika
  • Salt to taste (at end of cooking)
  • Optional – a couple of chorizo and/or morcilla or your favourite sausages

Rinse the lentils then add all the vegetables and spices apart from the salt to a large cooking pot.  Cover well with water, add the oil and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat slightly but don´t let them come off the boil while cooking as this will make the lentils hard. They will probably take about 45 minutes or so.

When the lentils are soft, add the potato and meats (if using) and continue cooking until the potatoes are cooked. Remove the bay leaf and celery leaves and add salt (and pepper too if you like) to taste and you´re ready to serve. Slice the sausages into smaller pieces before serving. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon over the top really lifts the flavour, but that´s just the way I like it!

Tastes even better the next day.