February 7, 2010

Chickpea, saffron and spinach stew


I love chickpeas, in any texture or recipe..be it just soaked as in falafel, cooked to butter-soft consistency and made into a dip like hummus or stewed with various ingredients to flavour them. There are infinite recipes for chickpea stews…Why should you try this one? Because it is AMAZING! It is fairly easy to make, it is super tasty and comforting for this winter season! It uses basic ingredients, plus, it is an all-in-one dish, that is, nutritionally very complete.


Photos don’t make it justice, I think. I’m still (I hope to improve with time) not a very good photographer. So, I can assure you that I’m not like those professional food stylists who can make food look better than it really is. I just try to make a tasty dish that I feel happy with the results (and Linguini approves of), and then go on to try to get decent enough pictures that can reflect how visually attractive it is and particularly, the texture it has. I hope I manage to do so, but if not, give this simple comforting recipe a try, I think it won’t disappoint you!



Chickpea, saffron and spinach stew

(enough for 6 generous servings)

For cooking the chickpeas:

     400g of chickpeas


     1/2 onion

     1 large carrot or 2 small

     2 cloves of garlic (slightly crushed)

     2 bay leaves

For the “sofrito”:

     200g onions (I used 2 small)

     1 clove garlic

pinch of salt

     2 large ripe tomatoes (about 400g)

1tsp of sugar

     2 tbsp of olive oil

For the “majao”:

     1 clove garlic

pinch of salt

     1 pinch saffron

     20g stale (or fresh) bread cut into 1cm slices

     5g pine nuts or hazelnuts

100ml olive oil for frying the bread


     200g fresh spinach leaves (if baby-leaf better)

     4 hard-cooked eggs


Start the night before by soaking the chickpeas in SALTED BOILING water that is 3 times their volume, as they will double. So place in a bowl big enough to allow for that.

The next day just strain them and place in a pressure cooker (you could do without, but they come out perfect in no time this way) and heat up water in another saucepan, salt it and add it to the chickpeas. It should just cover them, one finger above them. (They’ve already grown and we want to leave in all the cooking liquid, so we don’t need more than that).

Add the peeled half onion, the garlic cloves, the bay leaves and the carrot peeled and sliced into rounds 1/2 cm thick. If the carrot is big, cut in half lengthwise first.

Now bring to a soft boil. You will see foam forming on top. You want to get rid of all that before you close your pressure cooker. Some people put all in, close it and bring it to a boil, but all the impurities that are building up on top (yes, that foam) you don’t want it to get mixed up with your yummy dish. It’s not going to kill you, but I like to remove it. So with a ladle remove all the foam, then you can close your pressure cooker.


I know, it’s not a beautiful photo, as the heat was steaming up the lenses, but so you get an idea of what I mean…

I have a “super fast” pressure cooker (at least that’s how they call them here, I guess it’s the same elsewhere) so when it gets to the mark, I leave it for 25 minutes, remove it off the heat and let it cool down. If you use a normal one, I think it’s double that time, but you should check.

Meanwhile I prepare the “sofrito” (I have found no english translation for it, if there is one, please let me know). It’s basically a sautéed onion with tomato thick sauce. To make it, cut the onions in fine brunoise and the clove of garlic also very fine and add to a small frying pan with the olive oil (it should cover the bottom once warm, so if you find 2 tbsp is too little, add a bit more). Place in medium to low heat to let the onion soften without colouring. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes, just check it’s soft to the bite.

Peel and deseed the tomatoes and cut into roughly small squares (you could purée it too with a blender or a food processor) but I like the bits you can notice in the final stew.

Add to the onion and garlic with a tsp of sugar (I always like to add a pinch of sugar to tomato to counteract for it’s acidity…some need more than a pinch!!:-)). Cook over medium heat, to let the water evaporate and the tomato caramelise slightly. Again, it will take another 10-15 minutes. stir the bottom once in a while, so it doesn’t stick. If it does, lower the heat slightly. It should end up looking like this:


Now take a look at your cooked chickpeas, which will look like they have very little liquid, as shown below. If yours have a bit more, remove some and set it aside in case you want to add it up later. Remove the half onion and the garlic cloves.


They look plain, don’t they? that’s because the magic hasn’t yet started! Now the transformation begins…

Add the “sofrito” and already you get this:


Now prepare your “majao” (which is spanish for “mashed up” with a mortar and pestle)

First, fry the bread slices in a small frying pan with 1/2 cm oil to cover. Warm the oil and test a little piece of bread crumb to test if it’s warm enough. It should colour to a golden colour without browning too much! don’t let the oil smoke! Do one side first, as heat should get to the centre, then turn over and let it fry on that side. Remove onto some absorbent paper.

In the mortar, add the garlic clove (if it’s really big, use half and remove the germ that runs through the centre), add a pinch of salt and the saffron and pound to a smooth paste.

Then, add the pine nuts or hazelnuts (this time I used hazelnuts, but I usually use pine nuts, slightly toasted)and again pound very well to a smooth paste.

Finally add the fried bread and pound again. You should obtain this:


Add all of it to the chickpeas and return to medium heat. You want it to thicken a bit (the nuts and the bread will transform the liquid into a thicker sauce).Five minutes should be enough, just be very vigilant as the nuts tend to stick to the bottom, so stir one in a while the bottom, avoiding to break the soft, soft chickpeas!

And finally, add 4 hard-cooked eggs, cut into small pieces (I place them in warm water and bring to the boil. For medium-size eggs, 12 minutes simmer should be enough to cook them. Then, plunge them into ice-cold or cold running water immediately to cool down, so the yolk stays bright yellow and doesn’t get that ugly grayish around the edges).

And in a wok-sized pan add a drizzle of olive oil and place to medium-high heat. When warm, add the spinach and cover the pan,  it will take about one minute, just keep turning once in a while. When ready, add straight to your chickpeas. Season with salt a pepper to taste…

And now get ready to try your delicious stew!!They always say (and it’s true) stews are always better the next day. But I can assure this one is good straight off the pan!!!

To serve, I like to drizzle a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, and…




Anonymous said...

wow, yummy! love chickpeas too! last weekend made a hummus with lot of tahine and cummin (like this way).. but ur recipe is mouthwatering... by the way... ur mortar doesnt look spanish... seems tha 2 me!! keep posting and keep cooking

Diana said...

I'm happy to say I made your chickpea stew and it was delicious! Just for myself, I'll keep the eggs on the side next time. As the stew was sitting over night, I didn't like the eggs flavor afterwards. I think they took away the sweetness of the saffron :( Anyway, such a great dish. Thanks a lot for the recipe. I love saffron :)

P.S. I'm making your spanakopita today! Quite excited :)

Colette said...

Thanks for letting me know Diana! You are right, I didn't think of mentioning that, as I often hard boil eggs and keep them whole until ready to serve on a dish. So, yes, they might develop a stronger taste!Hope more people read your comment to take that into account, otherwise I'll have to mention it in the post itself to make a note.

I hope the spanakopita works out well, because it is sooo delicioussss (I learnt from who made the best I've tried so far)! Either way, if possible let me know how it went, if you had any problems or it was easy to follow. Also, do not hesitate to contact me by mail for any doubts. Thank you again!

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