Chickpeas are thought to come from the Mediterranean and can be widely found across countries with access to its shores. I personally love chickpeas in almost any dish and I am certainly a big fan of hummus and falafel. Within Spanish cuisine, Chickpeas with Chard are one of my favourite dishes, with simple ingredients and a superb taste! I’m unsure about where the recipe comes from originally, but I know that it is widespread in my home region Cadiz, with recipes varying slightly in each location.
Originally it is a dish made with chard, but since this vegetable is rather difficult to get in the UK, I often replace it with spinach. If you get the chance to grow or buy some chard, you should have a go at making the original recipe. In any case, other ingredients for this dish usually include dried peppers or smoked paprika, olive oil, salt, garlic, cumin and bread. It is especially the cumin that gives it its characteristic taste. Cumin is widely extended in Spain, being used in a large number of dishes in southern regions like Andalusia or the Canary Islands. However, it is likely to have arrived in Spain through the Moors a couple of centuries ago. Enjoy its flavour and have a go at cooking this recipe!
A delicious main dish from Southern Spain.
- 4 medium-sized garlic cloves
- 100 g white bread (with soft crust or without crust)
- 1/2 kg fresh spinach or chard (with stalks!)
- 4 juicy and ripe tomatoes (roughly 500g)
- 7 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika (the Spanish ‘pimentón’)
- 1/2 kg chickpeas (soft-cooked)
Peel and slice the garlic cloves, chop the bread into bite-size pieces, wash the spinach, and wash and dice the tomatoes.
Place a frying pan over medium heat and fry the garlic in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until golden brown. Use a skimmer to take the garlic out of the pan and set aside. Fry the bread in the remaining oil until it has absorbed it and is crispy. Set aside.
Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the tomatoes and fry for roughly 8 minutes. Stir occasionally, ensuring that you get a tomato puree rather than burning them (lower the heat if necessary).
Meanwhile, separate the stalks from the leaves of the spinach. Then roughly chop the stalks and add them to the pan. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 6 minutes until they have softened. Add a few tablespoons of water in case the mixture gets too dry.
Use the mortar to bind the garlic, salt, cumin and paprika. Then mix with the bread.
Add the bread-mixture, spinach-leaves and chickpeas to the pan and cook for another 15-20 minutes over medium heat with the lid on. If it becomes to dry, add some more water -but be careful, since the spinach will also release water and you aren’t cooking soup!-. Stir occasionally and remove from the heat once all ingredients have become soft.
Taste for salt and serve in a bowl or soup plate with some fresh bread.
You can choose pre-cooked chickpeas. Preferably the larger ones available in glass jars in most international supermarkets. If you boil dry chickpeas, make sure you soak them for a day. When you boil them, you can add the spinach and some bay leaves. This will help them soften faster and improve the flavour.