So, Week one of Term 3 is over with and while I would love to admit it was tiring, and it was, that sounds like a weak statement when Monday was spent drinking Muscat and making a roulade in the name of education. Monday aside, we have had some pounding, heavy demonstrations already and next week are going to be forlornly attempting clearing. They say it’s a kind of magic, honestly it looks like an lot of work and keen observations to be called anything as comparatively easy as ‘magic’.
An external lecturer came in to do a demonstration on Spanish Food. Hurrah! We thought! Lots of chorizo and tapas! No, she said she was fully confident that we all knew what chorizo tasted like so we were to expect other things. Among the number of dishes she talked us through was a hake dish with softened morcillo and chickpeas. When I think of chickpeas, I think of something incredibly non-offensive that I use to bulk up dishes on the cheap or roast in spices for a snack. I think of them as something happily affordable, but, I confess, an ingredient with little to offer on their own. Small, tawny-beige balls to stretch out a meal. This lady; whatever God or Spaghetti-Monster there may be please bless her soul, brought me to a whole new level of chickpeas. She displayed a glass container full of large, fat pearly-gold baubles, substantial and fortuitous. We tasted them with the hake dish – delicately milky with a nutty punch, they can stand up on their own. I cannot tell you how amazing these chickpeas were. I have just written nearly a paragraph on the merits of these chickpeas – is that not enough proof?
Many of the specific brands she would tell us sadly that they were more tricky and expensive to source here and gave names of a handful of eye-wateringly expensive shops. I thought I would never see these chickpeas again, I thought when I recreated this dish I would have to go back, drag myself back, to the 69p tins that I had thought were the be all and end all. But on visiting the Budgens ten minutes walk from where I stay with parents to obtain the morcillo, I saw them sitting there, happy and fat and milky and grail like on a shelf at a reasonable price. I could have squealed with excitement, except that it was 7.30 in the morning and the subject was chickpeas.
If you have not been made greedy and tainted from trying upper-crust legumes, the normal tinned chickpeas, I assure you, will suffice. The morcillo, unlike British black pudding, melts easily to form a dark sauce with only a sprinkle of paprika, wilted spinach is folded in and hake fillets just quietly cooked on top. Hake is my favourite fish and it is stoic and robust enough to stand up to the punch of morcillo and the milky crunch of chickpeas. It can take on the iron of spinach and be compatible. It’s a good fish. This is a very nice dish. Have fun with it.
Recipe from Jenny Chandlar
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
- 2 hake fillets
- 300g fresh spinach, trimmed and rinsed
- 2 white onions
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 100g morcillo, skinned
- a pinch of paprika
- 250g chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sultanas
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Thinly slice the onions. In a heavy based pan, soften them until sweet and golden and add the garlic, paprika, sultanas and parsley and cook for a further minute.
- Break in the skinned morcillo, breaking up with a wooden spoon and when completely soft and saucy, add the chickeas.
- Stir in the vinegar and then place on the washed spinach. Cover the pan and allow to wilt for a brief time, stir it all up and season.
- Season the hake fillets and place on top of the mixture. Cover and allow to quietly cook for about 7-10 minutes. You can also pan fry them and serve them on top afterwards.