Last week I picked up a pack of Padron peppers for cheap in the supermarket and it inspired me to make an impromptu Spanish themed meal. I’m prone to cooking like this -one ingredient can lead the way and influence everything I decide to make that day. It’s also quite often a good challenge to step outside my usual rotation of curries, stir fries and chillies, which on a week night are my regular staples. Don’t get me wrong, they are all delicious and nutritious but sometimes you just need to shake things up a bit in the kitchen.
This recipe doesn’t actually use Padron peppers and they are super simple to prepare tapas-style I haven’t done a recipe for them – you just fiercely fry them in some oil and then season generously with salt for a perfect tapas dish. This stew was something that I served alongside the peppers as I cooked up several small dishes at once. I wanted something a bit more substantial and with a protein hit so went to a couple of my always trusted (and always in stock) ingredients – chickpeas and spinach – and knocked up this basic dish.
I have a tendency to utilise chillies in almost every dish I make – I’m sure that’s not gone unnoticed to regular readers… So with this dish I purposefully made sure not to use chilli. Sure, there’s a sprinkle of paprika but that doesn’t give the same bite as chillies. I also tried to keep the ingredients simple – things that I always have in or that are easy to source for those that don’t. Henderson’s is an optional ingredient but one that I love. It adds a unique richness to any dish it’s in and is one of my current obsessions. For the uninitiated, it is a vegetarian alternative for Worcester sauce (which contains anchovies) and is a staple in the homes of any Northerners I know. It can be hard to come by out with Yorkshire but I have my ways and means… If you don’t have Henderson’s or equivalent, you can use additional soy sauce, or omit it completely. Another way to add a bit of richness would be through red wine. I’ve used red wine vinegar as I like the bite that the vinegar’s acidity gives, alongside the red wine tones. Also, if I open a bottle of red wine to cook with, it’s too easy to have a glass or three!
The almonds are optional too. I love the crunch they give plus I find that almonds complement the tomato flavours and are a great way to recreated typical Mediterranean flavours. I served this dish with pitta bread and a few small tapas dishes. It would go just as well with rice, cous cous or salad and even enjoyed cold. Buen provecho!
Spanish chickpea and spinach stew
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1/4 inch fresh ginger, sliced
- 1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1-2 tsp paprika
- 1 tin of chickpeas
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Henderson’s sauce (optional – or Worcester sauce if not vegan)
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 2 generous handfuls of spinach
- Salt and pepper to taste
- tsp sliced almonds (optional)
Put half of the tin of tomatoes in a blender, add the ginger, and pulse until smooth.
Heat the oil in a medium pan and cook the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the paprika and the blended tomatoes. Cook for a couple of minutes until it starts to thicken.
Add the chickpeas to the pan plus the bay leaves, vinegar, Henderson’s and soy sauce. Mix until coated and let simmer for a couple of minutes before you add the rest of the tomatoes and the spinach. Season to taste and simmer for up to 10 minutes until you have a rich, slightly thick sauce.
Serve in a bowl, sprinkle with some almonds. Enjoy with some pitta, cous cous, rice or salad on the side.