Friday, 11 April 2008
Well I had to, didn't I? After all that delicious food in Spain, I had to have a crack at making it myself - partly for my own satisfaction and partly so my husband could try some of it.
It wasn't hard to decide what to make. Spinach and chickpeas are 2 of his favourite things, so the espinacas con garbanzos was a certainty. I made it sort of like this version - although it will be a cold day in hell before I weigh 1g of cumin or 3g of salt - adding a good bit of paprika and turmeric. It was OK. Needed a higher proportion of spinach to the beans, and I think it would have been better cooked in a large quantity for a long time, and then reheated later. That may sound a bit disgusting, but the way spinach melts to a puree and gradually turns a burnished bronze colour is one of my favourite things in dishes like palak paneer.
I'd been so won over by the garlicky dishes I'd tried - the pork and the rabbit cooked with many whole cloves - that I thought I would give that a try with joints of chicken. And then discovered of course that someone else got there first and called it pollo al ajillo. I read a bunch of recipes and then went slightly in my own direction. But in my opinion it maintained the spirit of the originals!
Pollo al Ajillo (the North London way)
Sprinkle a flat plate with 1tsp salt, put chicken thighs on the salt, sprinkle with another 1tsp salt and leave for about 10 minutes while you get everything else ready.
Pour a good slug of olive oil into a cold cast iron dish (starting from cold because I want the maximum garlickyness to infuse into the oil before it starts to singe).
Peel a head of garlic and chuck the cloves into the cold oil (both times I had this in Spain the skins were left on the garlic, so you could do that, but I don't like picking the papery bits out of my mouth). Put the pan of garlic and oil onto a low heat and allow to slowly come up to temperature. When the garlic starts to sizzle, wipe the salt and released juices off the chicken thighs with a paper towel and place skin side down in the oil. Brown thoroughly (and I mean brown - until it is becoming crisp, not just until it goes opaque), turning the garlic cloves over from time to time.
Add 2 bayleaves, lightly crushed, and a pinch of saffron threads. Pour on about a cup of dry sherry (I used manzanilla). Cover and place in a preheated oven at about 180C for about half an hour.
This made much more delicious sauce than we needed to eat with the chicken (there are days when I wish we ate more starches), so I have it stashed away in the freezer for the next time I make a risotto. It will be an excellent addition!