Chickpeas + Spinach / Garbanzos con Espinacas

More than 10 years ago, Sam and Sam Clark of Moro Restaurant in London published their first cookbook.  Simply titled ‘Moro,’ their cooking was born out of an interest in Islam and a love of Spain.

“Linked in history by the Moors’ 700-year occupation of Spain, the two spheres of cooking are connected by what we call the saffron-cinnamon link (Spain and the Muslim Mediterranean).”

It’s a great book, drawing on influence from Spanish food and the foods of “the Muslim Mediterranean” – countries like Greece, Turkey, Egypt,  and Lebanon.  One dish that I have resorted back to time and again is a blend of chickpeas and spinach, with a touch of vinegar and spice.

Chickpeas and Spinach/ Garbanzos con Espinacas

from ‘Moro’ by Sam and Sam Clark

200g chickpeas, soaked overnight with a pinch of baking soda, or two 400g cans of cooked chickpeas, rinsed

6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

500g spinach, washed

75g bread (preferably white), crusts removed, cut into small cubes

3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 small bunch of fresh oregano, roughly chopped

1 small dried red chili, crumbled

1 1/2 Tablespoons good-quality red wine vinegar (I used the ‘Forvm Cabernet Sauvignon’ vinegar from Spain)

a good pinch of saffron, infused in 4 Tablespoons of boiling water

1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika (I used ‘Santo Domingo de la Vera (dolce)’)

salt & black pepper

If you’re using dried chickpeas: drain the dried, soaked chickpeas in a colander, rinse under cold water, than place in a large saucepan.  Add just over two quarts of water and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, skimming off any scum as it builds up, and cook for about 1-2 hours or until soft and tender (the older the beans, the longer they take to cook).  Remove them from the heat, pour off the excess liquid until it is level with the chickpeas in the pan, and season them with salt and pepper.  Set them aside for now.

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add half of the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt (in batches- if necessary), and stir well.  Remove the spinach when the leaves are just tender, setting them in a colander to drain.  Set them aside for now.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Fry the bread for about five minutes until it is golden brown all over, then add the cumin, oregano and chili.  Cook for about one more minute, then transfer it to a mortar and pestle or food processor.  Add the vinegar and mash (or puree) it to a paste.  Return the bread mixture to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and saffron-infused water.  Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot, then season with salt and pepper.  If the consistency is a little thick, add some water.  Now add the spinach until it too is hot.  Check for seasoning.  To serve, fry a slice of bread in a little olive oil, transfer it to a plate and spoon the chickpea and spinach over it, sprinkling some of the smoked paprika on top.

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