Hake with Chickpeas and Chorizo
I really enjoyed a bacalao with chickpeas and chorizo dish recently in Barcelona and thought I’d cook something similar at home. Hake is quite a good substitute for bacalao, since it’s from the same fish family. While hake is not salted and dried like bacalao (salt cod), it does have firm flesh, something that occurs with salting, and handily, has a solid back bone, so no searching for the tiny little bones as with cod. Also, hake is very popular in Spain (unlike the UK) and can easily make it’s way into a soup or casserole like this. Anyone not liking hake or fish could just make chickpeas with chorizo – in Spain the two combined constitute a dish in their own right, as well as being a basis for many others.
Merluza con Garbanzos y Chorizo recipe (serves 2 hungry people):
3 soft cooking chorizos (cut into 3)
2 slices of smoked streaky bacon (cubed)
2 small hake steaks 200g (chopped)
250g dry chickpeas
1 large onion (chopped)
1 carrot (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
6 pieces garlic (finely chopped)
2 bay leaves
a tablespoon olive oil
cracked black pepper
a teaspoon pimentón dulce
a teaspoon hot smoked pimentón de la vera
a squirt of anchovy paste (or half a fish stock cube)
a splash of sherry vinegar (optional)
This is a simple one pot dish, which could be cooked in the middle of nowhere, if one had a little salt cod and cured chorizo. A shepherd or traveler in Spain, two hundred years ago or more, would have cooked similar meals and this is not unlike the way that American cowboys cooked baked beans from scratch, over an open fire in a Dutch Oven. In Spain a lidded cazuela made of terracotta would be a more common cooking vessel, but a cast iron casserole with lid, will do an equally good job.
I soaked the chickpeas in plenty of cold water overnight for 12 hours. One could cut the time down considerably by using a pressure cooker or by buying chickpeas tinned, but I specifically wanted to do this the old fashioned way, so that everything was cooked together and absorbed all the flavours.
Fry the onion in plenty of olive oil, until it goes translucent, then stir in the bacon, followed by the chorizo. When the meat has taken some colour and the pimentón in the chorizo turns the onions red, the carrot, red pepper and garlic can go in.
Drain the chickpeas and give them a rinse before stirring them into the pot.
Pour on water to cover all the ingredients and add the bay leaves. Note, it looks like there are tomatoes in here, but the red colour is all pimentón and red peppers. Turn the heat up until the liquid is bubbling, skim off any foam and put the lid on before transferring the cazuela to a preheated oven at 150ºC. If like me, you use a couple of hake steaks, remove the back bones and add them to the dish – it all adds to the flavour at the end of the day.
Check the casserole after about an hour – the chickpeas should become soft somewhere between 60 – 90 minutes. Once they are tender squeeze in an inch or two of anchovy paste (to taste), sprinkle on some black pepper and add a splash of sherry vinegar (optional). I deliberately held back on the seasoning before the chickpeas were tender, as salt can inhibit the tenderising process – some pulses will not tenderise if salt is present. In this instance the salt comes from the anchovy paste. A fish stock cube could be used instead, but again, after the chickpeas are tender.
Push the cubed hake down into the liquid, replace the lid and return the cazuela to the oven for another 20 minutes.
Taste the casserole and adjust the seasoning to taste.
Cook on top of the stove at a low heat for another 10 – 15 minutes or until some of the liquid has dissolved and the surface starts to become thick and sticky (the collagen in the fish and particularly the bones causes this). Remove the bones and serve with crusty sourdough bread.
I enjoyed drinking a hearty Spanish red wine with this, such as Carta Roja, Monastrell Gran Reserva.