Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Stew

Regular readers will know that in our house, pulses rule supreme and we often bring supplies of chickpeas and lentils grown locally in Spain, over to England. In a tidying up frenzy the other day (family are visiting from Spain soon!) we came across further supplies that we had forgotten about. Result.

I decided to try something different from our regular Puchero and came across various recipes using Moroccan inspired spices which I adapted to suit us. I included chicken in this version, but I feel sure that you could quite happily leave it out which would give you an amazing vegan main course dish.

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Feel free to play with the spices, next time I’ll double the harissa to give more of a kick. I used my slow cooker but this could easily be cooked (covered) in a low oven, braised gently on the hob or even in a pressure cooker (although I don’t own one so can’t offer any advice on cooking times). If you prefer to use ready cooked, canned beans just skip the soaking stage and use double the volume in the ingredients list which will give you roughly the same quantity as the dried ones after soaking.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course)

  • Approx 400ml of dried chickpeas (measure by volume) soaked overnight in plenty of cold water with a pinch of bicarbonate then drained
  • 4 chicken thighs or drumsticks (optional)
  • Approx 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of peeled and crushed or chopped garlic
  • 1 level tablespoon of harissa (or chili powder to taste). Use more if you like a little tickle (and who doesn’t?!)
  • 1 teaspoon each of paprika, turmeric and ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons each of ground cumin and cinnamon
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes (mine was 390g)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • About 220 ml of water (If using a slow cooker, make sure everything is covered by about 2cm of liquid).  You may need to top up with more liquid if cooking in the oven or on the stovetop. Just keep an eye on it and add more hot liquid if necessary.
  • Salt (season after the dish is cooked to help the chickpeas soften when cooking)
  • To serve – a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some finely chopped radish, coriander and red onion.

Heat the oil gently ad add the onion and garlic. Cover and soften then add the spices and cook (uncovered) until the spices release their aroma.

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Add the chicken (if using) and the tomatoes, tomato puree and liquid. Bring to a boil and cook on high for 10 minutes. Now put everything into whatever you use to cook (casserole dish, slow cooker etc) and cover. I cooked mine on slow in the slow cooker for 6 hours and the chickpeas were soft and creamy with the chicken cooked through and still holding to the bone. Stovetop should take about 2 hours and a slow oven about 4 hours. Add salt to taste once the dish is cooked.

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Arlington Bluebell Wood

When you’re ready to serve (and it’s even better the next day), ladle into deep bowls and serve with the garnish and your favourite bread. Enjoy!

Bluebells (6)

PS. Because the photos of the stew weren’t great (although the stew was…photo quality is due to a desire to eat quickly!), I have included some gratuitous shots of a recent walk we took in a Bluebell Wood nearby, do hope you enjoy a little burst of English springtime.

If you enjoy chick peas and North African inspired spices, why not try this soup?

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Socca – How can something so ridiculously simple taste so outrageously good?!

In Spain we can easily buy chick pea flour as it’s used to make Tortillitas de Camarones, little deep fried “pancakes” made with the tiniest prawns imaginable. They are so very, very good. My previous experience of cooking with chick pea flour (or gram flour, garbanzo flour or besan) was in Indian cookery to make bhajis.

In my search for other uses, I kept coming across recipes for Socca, a chickpea flour pancake, usually cooked at high heat in the oven in a small cake tin or tray. I also found a version in my wonderful River Cottage Bread Handbook which was cooked in a frying pan. Perfect for summer when you want food you can cook quickly without using the oven. We ate this with Chargrilled Aubergines in Tomato Sauce – tearing up pieces of the pancake and dipping. Fantastic if you enjoy sharing dishes and are not too proud to slurp and lick your fingers!

Socca (1)

Ingredients (per pancake)

  • 100ml chick pea flour
  • 100ml water
  • A good pinch of salt
  • Olive oil for frying

Mix the flour, water and salt together and leave to stand for a few minutes. Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and heat until it sizzles (this pancake is meant to be oily, so go on, be heavy handed with the oil!)

Pour the mix in, it should be thick in the pan and cook until it starts to char on the edges. Flip it over and cook the other side. Serve immediately and imagine you are eating it sitting in a bustling bar in the South of France sipping an ice cold beer and watching the world go by from under the brim of your slightly battered panama hat….

On Thursday morning we’ll be heading off down the mountain and driving north across Spain. Hopefully we’ll get our heads down for the night near Bordeaux and onwards Friday morning towards Calais and an early evening crossing to Dover.  Then we go west to our little home in Bexhill. Just for a few weeks you understand, we have a Golden Wedding Anniversary to celebrate with my parents and walks along the beach with the pups. We will enjoy the last of the beautiful English summer before we head back to our mountain home for the September fiestas. I’ll still be checking in here, but perhaps not as often as usual. See you when we get there!

Harira Style Soup

You know when you buy a new cookbook and it´s full of lovely recipes, but the reality is you probably won´t cook that many of them and feel a bit let down? Mmm, yes, we´ve probably all been there. Well, not so with my new Ottolenghi book. In fact, I had intended to leave it in the UK to use when we return in a few weeks to start work on the house renovation. But it kept whispering to me, “take me with you, take me with you”, so back to Spain it came and I have been cooking from it already with plans for many more dishes.

First up was Harira, a Moroccan soup made with chickpeas and lamb. Yes, I´m trying to clear out my freezer a little before we leave, so out came a piece of lamb.  And you know how we love our chickpeas in Andalucía…it was meant to be. Of course, I made a few changes but I am sure Mr O won´t mind.

It´s not quite like other Harira soups I´ve made, but I was very pleased with the results. I think it would also be a very good vegetarian soup if you leave out the meat and use vegetable stock or water. I have also made this soup with rice and lentils also included.  This is a lovely recipe too from Robert Carrier.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

  • 200g dried chickpeas soaked overnight in water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda (I don´t know the quantities for using ready cooked, canned but I would imagine it would be at least double the weight)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion roughly chopped
  • 200g lamb fillet cut into 1cm dice (I used a piece of neck fillet on the bone which I cooked whole then pulled the cooked meat off and stirred into the soup
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I used 1 tsp)
  • 1kg tinned chopped tomatoes (I used about half this amount of my own tomatoes)
  • 1.2 litres of chicken stock or water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • A pinch of Saffron strands (I used a teaspoon of turmeric)
  • I also added 1 tsp each of cinnamon and hot chili powder
  • 100g baby spinach (I used chopped chard from the veggie garden)
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander (didn´t have any, so omitted)
  • 4-6 lemon wedges
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

Cook the chickpeas in plenty of water until completely tender (about an hour or an hour and a half), drain and reserve.

In a large saucepan over a medium heat, gently fry the onion until translucent. Increase the heat and add the lamb and fry until sealed.

At this point I added the spices (Mr O does this later in his version). Now add the tomato purée, and sugar, cook for a couple of minutes then add the chopped tomato, drained chickpeas, liquid and a little seasoning.

Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 35-45 minutes until the meat is tender. Squeeze in a little lemon juice (I didn´t add it all at this stage as per the recipe) and this is where Mr O adds his spices.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. Just before serving, bring the soup back to the boil and add the finely chopped spinach (chard in my case) then remove from the heat. Serve with lemon wedges.

Very delicious, I may even spice it up a little more next time. And yes, the book will be coming with me again to the UK….it likes to travel.

Puchero or Olla Andalúz – Andalucían Chick Pea Stew

Well, what a weekend of e-mails many of us have had. Thanks a bunch WordPress (not!) for inundating us all. It´s been quiet on the blog front as many of us have held off from posting or commenting for fear of drowning in a sea of unwanted e-mails. Hopefully we are all daring to put our toes back in the water…but please don´t forget to remove that tick from the box below the comments one so that you don´t receive all those messages if you´re brave enough to leave messages again!

It´s been a strange weekend here too weather wise up the mountain. Saturday was like the depths of winter, Sunday got better and this week it looks as though summer is on its way with temperatures predicted in the high twenties. Feeling grey and damp on Saturday, we indulged in a big bowl of comforting Olla (pronounced Oya) or Puchero.

The word Olla in Spanish is a big cooking pot.  Often this dish is named after the pot it is cooked in. It´s a hearty, filling winter warmer that if eaten for lunch (it´s never eaten for dinner here, probably because of the “natural effects” of chick peas) will keep you going all day . This version lists the ingredients typically used locally, but also gives options for making it outside of Spain where not all of the ingredients will be so easily available. The salted bones and fat add flavour and give the broth a cloudy or white appearance, which is the sign of a good stock in Andalucía.  Clear stock, I think I´ve mentioned it previously when talking about Chicken Soup, is considered to be lacking in flavour!

If you use the salted bones, you won´t need to add much in the way of seasoning at the end. If not, add salt after the chick peas have cooked, otherwise they will never soften.

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 2 cups of dried chick peas soaked overnight in water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda and drained
  • 2 large chicken legs and thighs (you will see that the meat in the photo is very dark as this was one of our “old boiler” cockerels…very tasty)
  • 1 piece of pork (typically here it comes from the leg or shoulder) weighing about 250g
  • Salted pork bones (replace with 2 or three pork ribs)
  • A small piece of salted pork fat (omit if you cannot find)
  • A piece of fresh or salted pork belly (with plenty of fat)
  • Optional – a few peeled carrots and sticks of celery
  • 3 or 4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 small dried chillis (optional)
  • Water

Put all the ingredients into a large stock pot, pushing the meat and bones down to the bottom.  Add water to cover everything well and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that rises to the surface during the first 10 minutes of hard boiling then reduce the heat to a very low simmer, cover and either simmer gently for about an hour and a half until the chick peas are completely tender or cook in a very low oven for 3 to 4 hours.

Remove the bay leaves, chilli, pork skin and bones, shred the meat and chop the carrots and celery if you prefer, season if necessary and serve in deep bowls with plenty of the delicious stock poured over.

Variation. Some people also add pig´s trotters to this dish, so if you enjoy them, do feel free to add. This weekend I omitted the pork fat and added celery and carrots to make it a lighter but still filling dish. My stock is probably not up to Spanish Housewife standards this time as it´s on the verge of being clear!

This is a dish which will improve and develop flavour if prepared a day ahead.

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!