|Prepare your spoons! Stew with chickpeas, chard and sausages.|
So, when a visiting friend, Lars Kronmark, who is a chef-instructor of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone in Napa Valley, California, said he wanted to taste some typical Spanish soups, I looked to village bar-restaurants for traditional dishes.
Ruta del Cuchareo, or “route of the spoon,” offering a cazuelita (earthenware ramekin) of soup or stew plus a glass of wine for just €2 (about $2.70).
We weren’t going from bar to bar, so I chose one, El Refugio (www.barelrefugio.es), for a spoon-food tasting menu for six persons. We had several salads and tapas as starters, then sampled three different soups/stews.
|Lars serves a bowl of berza.|
Are they soups or stews? I had trouble deciding what to call them when I was writing recipes for my cookbooks. Most have either legumes, such as chickpeas or beans, or rice. Some are really soupy, others fairly thick. In Spanish, the word potaje covers this category nicely. But “pottage” in English doesn’t sound so enticing.
|Soupy rice and seafood.|
Cazuela de arroz—rice with chicken, fish and shrimp—is sort of a “paella soup.” Carlos Boeta, owner of the Bar El Refugio, told us that making a flavorful fondo, or stock, is the most important part. My recipe for cazuela de arroz makes a rice dish not so soupy as the one shown here.
|Chickpeas, pig tripe and sausages for San Antón day.|
And, possibly my favorite soup/stew of all—berza de acelga, an Andalusian vegetable stew chock full of chickpeas, meat, sausages, chard and other vegetables. The version served at El Refugio, made by the cook, Rocio, is soupier than my version, pictured at the top. I wrote about berza on an earlier blog post http://mykitcheninspain.blogspot.com.es/2011/03/carnaval-pre-lenten-pig-out.html. Here is that recipe.
|Berza, with chickpeas and chard, at Bar El Refugio, Mijas.|
Andalusian Vegetable Stew
Morcilla, blood sausage, and chorizo punch up the flavor in this vegetable stew. If you don’t have morcilla, add a pinch of clove, a spoonful of pimentón (paprika) and crushed garlic to the vegetable pot.
½ pound chickpeas, soaked overnight
¾ pound beef shin or pork shoulder
½ pound meaty pork spareribs, cut crosswise into short lengths
Small piece of ham bone (optional)
2 ounces pancetta
1-pound bunch of chard
1 carrot, chopped
1 pound pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and cut in chunks
6 ounces morcilla (blood) sausage
6 ounces chorizo
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
Drain the chickpeas. Put them in a large soup pot with 8 cups of hot water. Bring to a boil and skim off froth. Add the beef, pork rib and ham bone, if using. When water boils, skim again. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Chop the chard. Add to the pot with the carrot and pumpkin. Prick the morcilla several times with a skewer (so it doesn’t pop open when steam accumulates) and add it to the pot. Add the peppercorns and salt. Cover and simmer 20 minutes more.
Add the potatoes. Cook 20 minutes more. Remove several chunks of potatoes and pumpkin and mash them smooth. Stir the mash into the pot to thicken the broth.
Let the stew settle 10 minutes before serving. Cut beef, pork rib, and sausage into pieces. Serve the chickpeas, meats, vegetables and broth in shallow soup dishes.