Life Food & Drink

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Chickpea, salt cod and spinach stew pot

Rick Stein

Published 10/09/2011 | 05:00

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Chickpea, salt cod and spinach stew pot

Serves four

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YOU WILL NEED

350g piece home-salted fresh cod* or 175--200g piece salt cod (bacalao)

350g dried chickpeas

1 small head of garlic, plus 3-4 cloves, finely chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

3 fresh bay leaves

100ml olive oil

Good pinch crushed dried chillies

½ tsp pimentón picante (smoked hot Spanish paprika)

3 vine-ripened tomatoes, skinned and chopped

½ tsp loosely packed saffron strands

225g spinach, whole baby leaf or ordinary, torn into smaller pieces

4-6 tbsps alioli, to serve

Salt

Crusty fresh bread, to serve

Method

If using bacalao, soak it in three to four litres of water in the fridge for 24-48 hours, depending on thickness. Change the water when it tastes salty, normally at least twice.

Cover the chickpeas with plenty of cold water and soak for 24 hours. If using fresh salted cod, cover with cold water and soak for one hour, if you haven't already done so. Drain the chickpeas and put them into a large flameproof casserole or saucepan. Peel all the loose skin from the head of garlic and add it to the pan with half the chopped onion, the bay leaves, 50ml of the olive oil and two litres of cold water.

Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and leave to simmer for one and a half hours, or until the chickpeas are just tender but not losing their skins and the liquid is now just covering them.

Shortly before the chickpeas are ready, bring 500ml of water to the boil in another pan, add the salt cod and simmer for six to eight minutes, or until just cooked through. Lift the fish on to a plate and, when cool enough to handle, break into large flakes, discarding the skin and any bones. Reserve the cooking water.

Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the remaining onion, the chopped garlic, dried chilli flakes and pimentón and fry for six to seven minutes until soft and lightly golden.

Add the tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes, or until they have broken down into a thick sauce. Remove and discard the bay leaves from the chickpeas. Lift out the garlic and squeeze the pulp from each clove back into the pan. Discard the skin.

Stir in the tomato mixture with the saffron and a little of the salt-cod cooking liquid if the mixture seems a bit too thick. Then, simmer for 15 minutes more, until the chickpeas are properly tender and the liquid has reduced by half.

Add the spinach and cook for two minutes. Stir in the salt cod and one teaspoon of salt, or to taste, and simmer for one to two minutes more. Serve in warmed shallow soup plates, with a drizzle of oil, a dollop of the alioli and some crusty bread.

To home-salt fresh cod, sprinkle a thick layer of salt -- about 1cm -- into a plastic container. Put a thick piece of unskinned cod fillet on top and completely cover it in another thick layer of salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Rinse the cod under cold water. Cover with fresh water and leave to soak for one hour.

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