POTAJE…..Spanish One-pot wonders

Miserable weather calls for desperate measures. It’s a time to indulge in heart-warming dishes designed to keep out the cold, simple recipes to revive flagging spirits and jaded palates. I must admit that I rarely cook at home, but when I do I love to throw everything into one pot and place it in the middle of the table for serving. It not only saves on the washing-up but it also helps to stimulate and heighten your senses so you can enjoy your meal even more. One-pot dishes are real comfort food at this time of the year, winter warmers that sooth the soul. The Spanish of a great variety of one pot dishes called “potajes”. This basically means stew or mixture/jumble, this is peasant, rustic food and each region throughout Spain has one or two specialties normally prepared with pulses.

Pulses are the unsung hero’s of the homely, peasant Spanish kitchen. Affordable, easy-to-prepare and highly nutritious, they are also used in soups, stews, curries, salads and both sweet and savoury dishes all around the world.
The ripe edible seeds of a wide range of pod-bearing, leguminous plants, pulses and lentils are low fat, high in fibre and have no cholesterol until you start adding ham, chorizo & pork belly to them. Most dried beans and pulses, unlike lentils and split peas, require soaking in cold water. As well as starting the rehydration process, this helps to eliminate any impurities that can make them difficult to digest. As you cook beans, a white scum often floats to the surface; skim this off with a slotted spoon. Do not add salt until the end of cooking as salt has a hardening effect: it toughens the skin and stops the inside from becoming tender. If using canned beans or lentils, drain and rinse thoroughly in cold water before using.

Garbanzos (chickpeas) have a delicious nutlike taste and buttery texture; they provide a good source of protein that can be enjoyed year-round. They are the main ingredients of many others Mediterranean Diet dishes such as hummus and falafels. Lentejas (lentils) are available in many varieties, including whole red, split red, puy (a small French variety), green and brown. Alubias Blancas (White butter beans) are a mild flavoured white bean best used in salads, soups and casseroles. They're available canned and dried. Some humble pulses have also attained legendary status in Spain, none more so than “Alubias de Tolosa”. Potajes include typical Spanish dishes like “Cocido Madrileño”, a chickpea stew, which is famous in Madrid, “Fabada” a white bean stew from Asturias, Alubias de Tolosa, a black bean stew from the Basque country. Others have strange sounding names like “Olla Podrida” witch translates into “rotten stock-pot” and also appears in Cervantes Don Quixote. Another is called Moros y Cristianos (arabs and christians) and is made with white rice and black beans. These modest one-pot dishes form the backbone of not only regional Spanish cuisine but also across the whole Mediterranean region. They are as popular today as they've always been and it’s easy to see why.

This recipe is inspired from a dish called “Revithada”. A simple and rustic vegetarian stew made from chickpeas that is the specialty of the island of Sifnos, Greece.

Ingredients:  serves 4
350g   chickpeas
250g cooked octopus, sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1          Large Spanish onion (chopped)
2.5      litres fish stock
1          garlic clove (crushed)
1tsp paprika
1          bay leaf
4tbsp Olive oil
1tbsp chopped parsley

Cover the chickpeas with cold water and soak them overnight.
In a large heavy-bottomed pan, heat the olive oil and sweat the onions, garlic and bay leaf. Add the chickpeas, paprika and cover with the fish stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1½  hours until the chickpeas are just cooked. Add a little more fish stock if necessary. Add the diced potatoes and cook for 15-20 minutes. Stir in the octupus, season and serve.

This is my very simple and easy version of this Spanish Classic.
Ingredients:  serves 6

1kg     white butter beans (fabes)
3          uncooked chorizos
3          Morcilla (black puddings)
300g   streaky bacon, diced
1          onion (finely chopped)
3          garlic cloves (crushed)

Place the white beans in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.
Leave to soak overnight. The next morning, drain the beans and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat to gentle simmer. Remove any scum from the surface and add the streaky bacon, onions and garlic and cook slowly with a lid on for about 35-40 minutes or until the beans are cooked and soft.
Poach the chorizos and black puddings in water for about 10 minutes. Drain and cut into slices then add them to the beans. Season and serve.