Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach [vegan]

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I have come to realise that time — as a concept, as a thing that happens to me and as a heavyweight opponent with whom I must fruitlessly wrestle — is simply none of my business. There is no point trying to understand how “it’s night before it’s afternoon/December is here before it’s June”, as Dr Seuss put it. If I had a tab open on my browser since last October, intending to presently reference the recipe therein, and if I have only just returned to it now, in the following April, and feel as though perhaps a week has passed, a month at the most, who’s to say that’s not true? Who’s going to come for me? The time police? Even if they did exist, I do not acknowledge them.

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Back in October, when I first consulted this recipe, time was moving in a more comminuted way — we were partway through a hundred-plus day lockdown, and my family’s solution to making one 24-hour period even marginally different from the one before was to choose a different country each day, and cook its food (or an approximation thereof) and listen to its music. (We stayed in lockdown so long that this was just one of our various daily schemes, but it’s the relevant one to this recipe.) I made these Catalan Chickpeas with Spinach when we got to Spain, along with some other Spain-wards recipes, and it really floored me — for something so simple, starring two undeniably excellent but not terribly flashy ingredients, it’s just beautiful. Gutsy, earthy, mellow, layered, delicious.

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I feel that of all the ingredients I might need to reassure you about in a kind but firm manner, it’s the raisins. If you’re already au fait with raisins in savoury recipes then this doesn’t apply to you, but if you are feeling suspicious, let me not only put your mind at ease but request, specifically, that you don’t leave them out — the tiny, lightly swollen bursts of winey sweetness are absolutely lush against the grainy soft chickpeas and the dark leafy spinach, to leave them out you’d lose what makes this dish so elevated and spectacular. That being said, if your suspicion for raisins veers into sensory issues territory then this doesn’t apply to you either! But put it this way, I have never once been a person who would eat a handful of raisins, the thought makes me shuddery, but once there’s some salt and olive oil involved they suddenly become entirely welcome.

@hungryandfrozen

Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com • adapted from @gimmesomeoven #vegan #cookingtiktok #beantok #chickpeas #foodblog #fyp

♬ Sascha – Jolie Holland

Maybe I’ve got time especially on the mind because my birthday is approaching, and, well, we live in a society where interrogative introspection follows each blowing out of candles; currently I’m coping by declaring, at every opportunity, that turning 36 is “so chic”. If you’re also in the ballpark of my generation or older you’re most welcome to use this framing device yourself, it’s…kind of helpful. Anyway, these chickpeas: time may be none of my business, but nonetheless I do wish I’d made them again sooner in a literal way, rather than in a “soon, in my warped and debilitating experience of the passage of time” kind of way. You should make them, and then make them again, for yourself, for friends, as a bring-a-plate, should you be in a place where socialising is relatively chill again. It would be a charming light meal for two with bread alongside (or, alternatively, the promise of dessert after); or it could easily feed four when served alongside a few other dishes, and if you’re feeling hungry, it’s all yours and no one else’s.

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Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach

An incredibly delicious, hearty, and simple dish, and impossible to make just once. I found this recipe on gimmesomeoven.com and have toyed with it just a little; if I had pine nuts I would’ve obviously preferred to use them as the original suggests, but the significantly less expensive sunflower seeds are a fine substitute.

  • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (or, 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
  • 1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
  • 3 tablespoons dry vermouth (or dry sherry, or a splash of water)
  • 3 tablespoons raisins (or sultanas)
  • 3 large handfuls spinach
  • salt, to taste, and extra virgin olive oil, to finish

1: Toast the three tablespoons of sunflower seeds in a hot pan for a few minutes, until they go from pale to golden brown. Tip them into a bowl or plate and set aside.

2: Peel and finely dice the onion, then peel and roughly chop the six cloves garlic. Warm the two tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan — I used the same one that I toasted the sunflower seeds in — and fry the chopped onion and garlic over a low heat until they’re softened. Tip in the teaspoon of smoked paprika and half teaspoon of cumin seeds, and stir to coat the onions.

3: Turn up the heat a little and tip in the chickpeas, followed by the three tablespoons of vermouth (although, I generally slosh rather than measure, for what it’s worth), and the three tablespoons of raisins or sultanas, and let it simmer for about five minutes, adding a splash of water if the pan is looking too dry.

4: Roughly chop the spinach and throw it into the pan. You can simply stir the spinach into the chickpeas with the heat on, or you can turn off the heat, clamp on a lid, and let the residual heat and steam wilt the spinach. Either way, it shouldn’t take more than a minute or two for the spinach to flop into almost nothing.

5: Remove the pan from the heat, scatter over the reserved sunflower seeds, season with salt (and pepper, if you wish) and drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil. You could also consider a squeeze of lemon juice (especially if you used water instead of vermouth or sherry).

Serves 2—4, lightly, depending on what’s being eaten alongside, or one hungry person.

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music lately:

Forever and Ever by Demis Roussos, although this song evokes memories of Alison Steadman in the horror film (not in genre, but in vibe, you understand) Abigail’s Party, there’s something about those effortlessly gliding vocals and the full-hearted romance and proto-dream pop energy that is very loveable.

Persuasive by Doechii, I love how this is somehow quiet and loud at the same time. Utterly hypnotic, I can’t stop listening to it.

Forever, by Pete Drake. I was sent this video, along with the description that it was staggeringly Lynchian, and: I agree! If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s from 1964 I would have sworn on my own grave that David Lynch’s handprints were all over this tableau, it’s got that mix of heartbreaking comfort and looming, yet unidentifiable sinisterness and a general pervading Americanness. It’s almost hard to believe it’s real, but, somehow, it is.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Roasted Garlic Lentil Soup [vegan]

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Despite my love of attention I fantasise about being an eminently successful author and quietly detaching myself from all online life, content to mysteriously and elusively enjoy and redistribute my wealth, resurfacing once every seven years or so for a rare, anecdote-jewelled interview or avant-garde photoshoot. Constantly battling to carve out some kind of online platform – a mere presence, even – means you have to forgo any hopes of appearing mysterious and elusive, because that one stupid thought you didn’t tweet could’ve been the tweet that would go viral which would make publishers think you’re a viable option because that’s how we sell books now, and so on.

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Nevertheless, I did get to enjoy a little mysteriousness all of my own recently: we’ve been experiencing an infuriating combination of frantic humidity, antipodean Santa Ana Winds, and the promise of more humidity to come, and yet I found myself craving – and not just craving, but planning for – of all things – lentil vege soup. In lieu of any actual mysteriousness…that’s a mystery!

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I also had it in my head that a roasted whole bulb of garlic, pureed, added to the soup, would be wonderful. Wanting lentil soup in humid November is mysterious (perhaps the brothy quality of the air gave me the idea) but wanting roast garlic really isn’t – it’s all starting to add up.

There are simpler recipes than this – and you could certainly just fry some chopped aromatics, hiff some lentils and water and seasoning into a pan and still have a very fine meal, but with a little more effort and equipment (and staggering through my over-written recipe) you get this lentil soup: velvety, buttery, flooded with pure garlic and studded with rich, sweet fennel seeds. This soup is cosy, but it’s elegant with it. Roasting the entire bulb of garlic first does mean you can’t make this at the last minute, but the time spent is not wasted – the garlic, in its little foil-pouch sauna, becomes soft, caramelised, and mellow, its flavour unfurling like a flower leaning towards the sun, indeed, if you’re roasting one you might as well do a few at a time since the resulting garlic is so versatile and welcome.

@hungryandfrozen

lentil soup with a whole bulb of garlic in it 🧄 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #goodsoup #veganrecipes #lentilsoup #garlic #roastedgarlic #nz #fyp

♬ Autobahn (Single Edit) – Kraftwerk

My culinary whims are always fairly erratic and I’m happy to indulgently indulge them, but we’re currently 92 excruciating days into lockdown so maybe it’s no surprise that I’m reaching for the kind of pureed food that doesn’t push back. I’m just grateful that I’ve managed to come up with something new in the midst of this creativity-sapping isolation misery-fog – not that I regret a single moment of my chilli-oil hat trick of recipes, in fact…now that I think about it…this soup would be even more delicious with the chilli oil pumpkin seeds strewn on top. It also occurred to me that I could call this “Lentil Soup with Forty Cloves Of Garlic” a la the classic French recipe (and a la my own artichoke and potato recipe) but with only a mere singular bulb of garlic involved it’s not quite worthy of the title; since I love to fiddle with my own recipes this could well be the next variation for those who instinctively double the quantity of garlic in every recipe they meet. 

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Roasted Garlic Lentil Soup

I’ve done it again – and by “again” I mean I’ve taken a fairly straightforward recipe and somehow written it in the most convoluted and multi-paragraphed way possible. Admittedly, there is a bit of work involved here (and two different kinds of blender, I’m genuinely sorry) but the soup you get is worth it, I promise: creamy, rich, full of garlic, and vegan of course. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 whole, large, bulb of garlic
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 teaspoon dried celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, plus more to serve
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 cups/750ml water, extra
  • 1 mushroom stock cube (or your preferred flavour)
  • 1 tablespoon vegan oyster sauce, or soy sauce (or Maggi seasoning, or similar)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • a couple tablespoons of cashew butter, coconut yoghurt, tahini, hummus, whatever you’ve got, to serve (optional)

1: Set your oven to 200C/400F. Place a bulb of garlic in a square of tinfoil (or use baking paper tied with kitchen string) drizzle over just a little olive oil, and pinch the edges of the tinfoil together so the garlic is sealed in, but fairly loosely wrapped. Put it in the oven for about 40 minutes, until a skewer carefully stabbed into it reveals soft and yielding garlic cloves. Either use it right away once it’s cool enough to handle, or store it in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-5 days till you’re ready.

2: Slice the tufty base off the bulb of roasted garlic – being careful not to lose any actual, precious garlic in the process – and then throw the garlic bulb itself, whole and unpeeled, into a high-speed blender with 1/3 cup water and a couple tablespoons of olive oil, blitzing it into a beige liquid. Because there’s only a small quantity of liquid here, you may need to stop and shake the blender every now and then. Spatula this garlic mixture into a sieve over a bowl, stirring and scraping to extract every last bit of garlic puree into the bowl below. Discard the remaining husky bits of garlic peel, although you could save them for making stock with (I admit, I just ate them on the spot.)

3: Peel and roughly chop the onion and throw it into the unwashed blender – if you’re going to have extra dishes I try to make it work your while – along with the carrot, also roughly chopped (no need to peel, but up to you). Blitz them into a babyfood-looking mush and spatula them into a saucepan, along with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

4: Stir the onion-carrot mixture over a low heat, adding the dried celery, pepper, and thyme leaves. Wash your lentils – I tip them into a bowl, cover in cold water, sluice it round with my fingertips and carefully drain it – and add them to the pan, along with three cups/750ml water. Let it come to a boil, stirring often, then place a lid on the saucepan, lower the heat right down, and let it simmer – stirring occasionally – till the lentils have completely softened and collapsed into the liquid. Depending on your lentils, this could happen quite instantly, or it could take up to 20 minutes.

5: Remove the lid and add the stock cube – stirring to break it down – and oyster sauce. Tip in about 90% of your garlic puree, reserving the rest for serving (unless you want to dispense with the drizzle-of-something, in which case add all the garlic here.) Taste to see if the seasoning needs correcting, then remove the pan from the heat and use a stick blender (sorry, a second appliance) to puree it, or you can carefully transfer it to your blender and use that, being very careful of the air pressure that builds up when blending hot liquids.

6: Heat the fennel seeds and about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a small frying pan until the oil is just starting to wobble, then remove from the heat. Stir the remaining garlic puree into a couple of tablespoons of coconut yoghurt, or cashew butter loosened with a little water, or tahini treated the same way, or even hummus diluted slightly with water, whatever you’ve got.

7: Divide the soup between 2-3 bowls and spoon over some of the fennel seeds and their oil, and the garlic drizzle if you’re using it. Sprinkle with extra thyme leaves, and serve.

Makes 2-3 generous servings. If you’ve got four people to feed, add an extra 1/2 cup lentils and 1 and 1/2 cups water, any more people than that and you might as well double the whole recipe.

Notes:

  • If you have a stick of celery to hand, leave out the dried stuff and throw the roughly chopped fresh celery in the blender with the onion and carrot. This would actually be my preferred choice, to be honest, but we didn’t have any fresh celery.
  • If fennel seeds aren’t your thing – though I urge you to use them, when fried in oil they are intensely good – then warm through a stalk or two’s worth of fresh rosemary needles in olive oil and spoon that over the soup instead. Better yet: porque no los dos?
  • If – quite reasonably – you balk at the idea of turning on your oven just for a bulb of garlic, throw it in while you’re using the oven for something else (ideally savoury, unless you don’t mind whatever’s being cooked alongside it being garlic-scented).
  • Should you have a bottle of dry sherry or Marsala around you should definitely add a splash of it to the soup towards the end, this is what I will be doing in the future (but it tasted great without, so don’t worry if this isn’t going to happen for you.)
  • Making this without a blender or stick blender of some kind is not ideal, but not impossible – extract your garlic by cutting the top off the roasted bulb and squeezing out as much roasted garlic as is humanly possible, and mash it with a fork to form a paste. Finely chop your onion and carrot instead of blending them, and while the soup tastes better when blended up, it’s not an insurmountable hardship to eat it as it comes.

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music lately:

Autobahn by Kraftwork. I cannot even fathom how it must’ve felt to reckon with this level of Teutonic ebullience and charm when Autobahn was released in 1974, disarming, I’m sure! Immensely cheering stuff.

Allandale by Laura Lee Lovely – good news at last! It’s dreamy and glorious and makes me want to dance under neon lights right NOW!!

Germ-Free Adolescents, by X-Ray Spex. This has, to my enormous offence, been removed from Spotify. There’s no better way to spend an afternoon than by sitting staring into space listening to this on loop and now it’s one step more difficult for me to do so and I am taking umbrage!

Red Light by Linda Clifford, from the 1980 film Fame. An absolutely unreal song that manages to stand out and grab you by the ankles even in the middle of a soundtrack jostling with the best songs you’ve ever heard in your life.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!