In the Beach House we love simple cooking with a smile and this stew definitely makes us beam a bit. We’ve just landed in Spain after a crazy few weeks in the UK for a variety of reasons that we’d prefer not to bore you with. I am super busy on a food based project that I will no doubt tell you about soon, but until then, the posts are going to be few and far between as I type my little fingers to the bone.
Some of you may have read about our winter retreat last year, near the sleepy port town of Mazzaron, up near the hills (you will no doubt be unsurprised to hear). It’s a real country area and the Med sparkles from our terrace every morning and each night sky is filled with incredible maps of stars. All that sun means there are some amazing veggies for sale here in the markets and we have loved having a dabble and a haggle! We pick up ridiculous bargains and then get home and wonder what on earth we are going to do with it all…! We only have a little kitchen and the Beach House Kitchen (Part II) is slightly underequipped compared to the gleaming ‘Thunderbird 1’.
Our favourite new bit of equipment is a wooden handled knife that we picked up off a flamenco-loving-gypsy-with-a-mullet for a euro. It seems to be impervious to bluntness. The Excalibur of onion chopping and potato peeling. It is worth mentioning that we buy lettuce and tomatoes from this fellow’s Mum, who normally wears a pink dressing gown and a has a cigarette hanging from her mouth. The dressing gown is held together by a piece of frayed string and is probably one of the most fashionable statements on display, come market day, in little Puerto Mazarron. We love that market, but this week it was called off due to adverse weather conditions. It rained a little and was a little blowy! We wouldn’t get much done in Wales with these kind of restrictions.
We have just spent a busy week with my Mum doing plenty of café and bar hopping and taking in a few ancient looking little towns along the way. Unfortunately every time we’ve got the camera out, at least one of us has been stuffing our face with tapas, so we are short of pleasant pictures of us lounging around the place. I’m sure you can imagine the scene we enough and I hope we are not rubbing in our good fortune to be here. To balance things out, I have had my normal restaurant experience in Spain, which go a little something like this:
Step 1) I apologise profusely for being a non-ham eater, smile through the imminent baffled glare and disdain, then fully expect the worst…..
Step 2) I am faced with a decision to eat around fish and or meat or go hungry.
Step 3) The next course arrives and I revert to Step 2
Step 4) I end up just eating fruit for dessert
Having said that, the wine is good and cheap and this carries me through each disappointing dining experience. You’ve got to love the people in our local restaurants though – a brilliant bunch of rogues, fishermen and real characters. Veganism has not reached these parts, but when it does, it will be repelled with sharp sticks and incredulous words. NO HAM! What are you, insane!!!!! I love them all, even if they think I am from the planet Parsnip.
NB Casa Monika’s in Puerto Mazzaron is not included in this generalization, as one of the LOVELY owners Jose is Vegetarian/ Vegan, and the food rocks. Thank YOU.
So……we keep things even simpler in Spain and this was a stew we had for dinner last night and thought you guys would love. The chickpeas here are little works of art, after soaking they swell up like small plums and the spices are very, very potent. The smoked paprika almost takes your breath away and the cumin we can still smell even when its sealed in a jar in a cupboard (at first Jane thought I had some strange musty body odour thing going on).
We use a lot of vegetables here, making full use of our mammoth stash, but you can really pick and choose what ever is handy. The classic combination of warming spices and chickpeas will lend itself to almost any vegetable. As you can see, I like to sweeten it a little with dates, it seems in-keeping with the style of the dish. You can always omit the sweetener, or use some honey or brown sugar. Another idea we have been playing with recently to good effect is adding a little soya milk to stews and soups; it is surprisingly creamy and changes the texture. You may like to throw a cup of soya milk in here and see how it goes (it will go well!!!!) Jane did it by mistake the other day confusing the carton of stock with Soya milk in a pea and mint soup… it was a lucky accident (the less said about her vegetable stock-on-muesli accident the better though)!
The coriander and glug of olive oil at the end sets this dish apart, as with so many stews and soups, that little finishing touch makes all of the difference. Golden olive oil warmed on a stew is something almost to gorgeous to describe in feeble words. I am sure Jane would say ‘It’s ace!’ and I would certainly agree.
I’d love to think that we’ll be posting again soon and we’ll be drinking G and T’s on the terrace on your behalf! It’s a Beach House life, what can we say!!!!!
The Bits – For 4-6
1 inch and a half square ginger (grated), 3 garlic cloves (peeled and grated), ½ tsp cinnamon,1 tsp ground oriander, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1tsp ground cumin
2 tomatoes, 1 tbsp tomato puree (depending on how good your tomatoes are), 1 carrot (finely diced), handful of cabbage leaves (or other greens), 1 onion (finely sliced), 1 cup of pumpkin (medium sized cubes), 1 small courgette (same size as pumpkin), 2 handfuls of spinach leaves.
3 cups of chickpeas (with cooking juices), 4 fresh dates (finely chopped), 1 cup vegetable stock, sea salt and pepper (to taste)
Fresh coriander leaves and stalks (for topping)
Soak the chickpeas overnight and cook them in fresh water for roughly 45mins- 1 hour (add 1 teas of bicarb of soda to speed up the cooking process).
In a hot pan, brown the onions for 3-4 minutes. Then add the fresh ginger, garlic, pumpkin, carrot and courgette. Fry them off for 5 minutes.
Now add the cabbage leaves, cumin, sweet paprika, ground coriander, cinnamon, and chopped fresh tomatoes (with the tomato puree if you’re using it). Time for the chickpeas with their juice from their cooking and a good old stir.
Add one cup stock if needed (if you haven’t got enough chickpea juice). Bring to the boil and cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the carrots are nice and tender.
Sprinkle in spinach leaves cover and turn off heat. Leave for 5 minutes and give a final stir and serve.
We Love It
This is our every day type stew, full of veggies, flavours and goodness. This is the type of winter fuel that sparks us into life! We worship the tasty spicy-ness of this dish.
Chickpeas are super high in fibre and are renowned for their ‘filling’ properties. Eat a few, feel full, don’t snack on all those beetroot crisps you’ve got locked away in the cupboards. Chickpeas have been shown to help stabilise insulin and blood sugar, they are also awesome for your digestion and colon. Lovely little chickers!!!!!