A potaje is basically a soupy type of legume stew that’s a popular lunchtime main course during the winter months. The technique involves making a sofrito of garlic, onion, capsicum (pepper) and tomato which is added to the pot of almost-cooked legumes. The dish is then dressed up with whatever else you fancy, such as seasonal vegetables, chorizo or morcilla sausage, pork ribs and chunks of meat.
For the sofrito
1 pimiento nyora (optional)
1 large brown onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
For the potaje
400 g (14 oz/2 cups) dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight
1 tablespoon tomato paste (concentrated purée)
2 smoked chorizo sausages (preferably ibérico)
2 large potatoes
1 bunch spinach leaves
crusty white bread, for serving
To make the sofrito, slice the pimiento nyora open, if using, put it into a bowl of hot water and set aside to soak for 5 minutes. Scrape out the flesh with a teaspoon and reserve.
Sauté the onion, celery, green pepper, carrot, garlic and salt in a little of the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until softened.
Add the reserved nyora flesh and the paprika, and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3–4 minutes, until soft. Set aside.
To make the potaje, put the soaked and drained chickpeas into a large saucepan. Cover the chickpeas with cold water and bring to the boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a steady, soft boil and cook for 1 hour. Skim the foam off the top as it appears for the first 15 minutes. As the water evaporates and reduces, add enough cold water to cover the chickpeas well once more. This process is known as shocking the legumes and helps them to cook perfectly. Repeat this process once or twice more as the water reduces.
When the chickpeas have been cooking for 1 hour and are almost soft, add the prepared sofrito, tomato paste and whole chorizo, and stir to combine. Peel and chop the potatoes by using the following traditional technique, known in Spanish as cachear. Hold the potato in one hand and insert a paring knife as you would if you were going to chop off a chunk, but stop just before you slice the whole way through, then snap off the chunk. This method helps to release the potato starch and thicken the stew.
Add the potatoes to the stew and cook for a further 30 minutes, then check the chickpeas are al dente. Check in 10-minute increments if further cooking is required. When cooked, transfer the chorizo sausages to a plate, add the spinach leaves to the saucepan, and turn off the heat.
Slice the chorizo into chunks (be careful as it might spurt fat at you), then return the chunks to the saucepan. Serve the stew with crusty white bread.
Recipe from My Barcelona Kitchen by Sophie Ruggles, published by Murdoch Books.