When I departed my corporate life for film & TV I was, exceptionally thoughtfully, given a recipe book called Movida Rustica: Spanish Traditions and Recipes. This book is a true delight which I’ve read from cover to cover however I had yet to actually cook one of it’s dishes. As I’ve been recovering from brain surgery (egads!) comfort food has been order of the day and as husband has been in charge of cooking, simplicity and old school favourites have been on the menu. We’ve had cottage pie (several times and with glee), beef stroganoff (my love of sour cream is extreme), beef stew, chicken & corn soup (chinese style) and chilli con carne. This week, as recovery kicks into high gear, I was head chef but we really got into it together on this little piece of comfort food perfection.
The original recipe calls for pressure cooking, cuttlefish and dried chickpeas. None of which I can be bothered with. I do like cuttlefish but it’s not easily accessible and the requisite pressure cooking seemed like too much faffing about so I went for just a simple sturdy white fish. Soaking and slow cooking chickpeas is a pain – those from a tin worked beautifully. Next time, I may even ditch the fresh tomatoes and go for tinned tomatoes as well. That’s how lazy I am. This is COMFORT food people! If the cooking can’t be comfort too when in mad surgery recovery mode then I don’t believe in cooking at all. Ha! To be fair, it ‘s a very pleasing cook. Everything just flows together nicely and simply. Easy easy.
We made 1.5 times the recipe and it did us for dinner twice with greed, forgetting crusty bread i.e. had we accompanied with bread I reckon we could have gone for at least a lunch as well if not a 3rd dinner.
The outcome? Well, prepare to be in heaven. This is comfort food perfection. Fragrant, sweet and heartwarming with a gentle kick of spice.
- 600g white fish (I was cheap and lazy and used basa cos it was on special, or if accessible, go with the original recipe and use cuttlefish)
- 600g chickpeas, tinned
- 1 head of garlic, chopped in half through the guts (i.e. so you have a top & bottom)
- 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika (I cannot rate this enough. I had a tin of smoky and a tin of bittersweet in the cupboard and used the bittersweet. it was perfection).
- 200ml fino sherry (unfortunately the shopper forgot to get sherry so we ran with madiera cos that’s what we had in the cupboard. it worked a treat but given a choice, I’d go for sherry).
- 50ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large, brown onion, roughly chopped
- 6 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped (or 2x 800ml tin if you are feeling lazy)
- 3 bay leaves
- 200g fresh chorizo, chopped into slices
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- crusty bread, to serve
- large, heavy-based saucepan e.g. le crust style
- deep mortar & pestle
- Into the saucepan place the onion, tomatoes, bay leaves, sherry, olive oil, paprika and garlic.
- If using cuttlefish, the original recipe calls for it to go in now (into a pressure cooker). If using fish as I did hold on the seafood.
- Cover with approx 700ml water (just enough to cover) and bring to the boil on high heat
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes if using fresh tomato and 20 will do it if using tinned. You do need to end up with soft and fragrant garlic and onion so that is the measuring stick timewise.
- Remove & reserve the garlic
- Add the chorizo and chickpeas
- Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes
- In a dry frypan on medium heat, cook the saffron until it just deepens in colour
- Remove to the mortar & pestle
- To the mortar and pestle add parsley, mint, and peppercorns
- Give it a pound to break down the peppercorns a bit (not to powder but enough that you won’t be eating whole peppercorns
- Squeeze the soft and fragrant garlic cloves into the mortar and pestle (removing the skin)
- Add a tablespoon of the liquid from the saucepan.
- Pound till you have a smooth paste.
- Stir the paste into the saucepan
- Add the white fish.
- Cook on medium for about 5 or so minutes, just till the fish is cooked.