Spinach and Chickpea Soup (potaje de garbanzos y espinacas)
This is a Castilian version of a thick soup that is eaten in many parts of Spain during Lent, when it is known as garbanzos de vigilia (meaning ‘chickpeas of abstinence’). Bits of salt cod are sometimes added. At other times of the year pieces of ham or bacon may go in. It is surprisingly delicious and satisfying, with a rich texture and an intriguing flavour that comes from the mashed paste of fried bread, garlic and spices that is stirred in at the end. Versions of the soup are served in tapas bars in different parts of the country. It is a complex dish but not a difficult one. These days supermarkets usually sell young spinach leaves with very thin stalks. If you buy spinach at an open market you will need to pull off the hard stalks and wash the leaves carefully. If using fresh spinach you will need a large pan, as the leaves are very bulky and cook down to very little.
|3||medium potatoes (500g), peeled and cut into quarters|
|2 x 400g tins||chickpeas, drained|
|1l||vegetable or chicken stock, made with 1 stock cube|
|500g||spinach leaves, fresh or frozen and defrosted|
|1 tbsp||red or white wine vinegar|
|4 tbsp||olive oil|
|4–5||garlic cloves, peeled|
|2||slices of bread (about 75g), crusts removed|
|1 tsp||pimentón dulce or sweet paprika|
|1 tsp||ground cumin|
|A pinch||of ground chilli pepper or cayenne (optional)|
|2||hard-boiled eggs, peeled, yolks reserved and whites chopped|
You will need a food processor.
Put the potatoes and chickpeas into a large pan with about 750ml of the stock, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Put the fresh or frozen spinach leaves on top and cover the pan. Fresh leaves will soften quite quickly and collapse in the steam. Stir them in. Add vinegar and salt, and cook for 10 minutes more.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the whole garlic cloves and the bread over a medium-high heat, turning them over until golden brown. Keep a careful watch, as they brown very quickly. Drain on paper towels then put in the food processor with the pimentón, cumin and ground chilli pepper, if using, and blend to a fine paste. Add the hard-boiled egg yolks and blend again. Gradually pour in the remaining 250ml stock and blend to a thin cream. Pour this into the soup, stir well and check the seasoning. Cook for another 10 minutes, then stir in the chopped hard-boiled egg whites and heat through.
Before serving, add some water if necessary to thin the soup a little – although it is meant to be thick.