One (of the many) new things I have discovered since the beginning of Borough is the delights of smoked paprika. I read somewhere a while ago that there is no savoury dish that doesn't benefit from the addition of at least a smidgin of this lovely brick coloured stuff. It is deep and intense and is flavoured with sunshine and burnt oak. The paprika I love is from pimentón of Extremadura, “Pimentón de La Vera” where the peppers, to qualify for the coveted Denominación de Origen status first granted in 1993, must be dried slowly over an oak-burning fire for several weeks before being ground to produce the famous paprika. Amazing rich, postively decadent flavour results. It is undoubtedly the secret ingredient of Moorish cuisine and is the essence of chorizo.
With all this über winter we're having in London I seem to have an endless desire for pulses to bolster me against the cold. Something about thinking of their dense creaminess comforts me when menu planning, their cheapness certainly delights my budget planning. And they're available - if you believe the press hype supermarkets are being stripped bare by maurading hordes of panicked shoppers terrified at the prospect of being snowed in and, presumably, starving to death. Fortunately my local shops remain fairly unmauraded and have a good supply of lentils and things.
I had some spiced lamb mince in the freezer that I wanted to use and I fancied chickpeas to go with some little fried balls. Having got that far then I wanted them stuffed into hot pitta with cucumber raita as a garnish. Seriously good winter food. The man loved the idea because it could, with little imagination stretching, be considered a sandwich which will always tick the box for him. I had been thinking of making hummus but fancied a bit of a change so decided a roughly crushed warm salad would work better - more texture and somehow more interesting. Played about a bit and was rewarded with this utterly sublime dish - the first mouthful was just Wow! Feeling very pleased with myself.
Crushed Chickpea Salad
1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
Bouquet garni of whatever you have - I used celery leaves, roasemary, thyme, bay and a chilli
3 tbspns olive oil
1 medium onion, finly sliced into threads not dice
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tspn hot smoked paprika
1 tbspn chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
Drain the soaked chickpeas, put them into a pan with the bouquet garni and cover with water. Bring to the boil, skim the scum, then simmer for 40-50 minutes till the chickpeas are tender.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy pan and fry the onion over a very gentle heat till it is golden and caremalised. This takes about half an hour. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more till it too is fragrant.
Drain the cooked chickpeas, discarding the herbs and put the chickpeas into a bowl. Mash roughly with the remaining tablespoon of oil to a fairly rough consistency. Add the cooked onions, garlic and their cooking oil and the paprika and stir through the mashed peas. Taste and season then add the chopped parsley.
Serve warm. Or hot. Or cold.
I can see us eating a lot of this...