Paul Flynn: three great Spanish dishes to cook at home
Three traditional dishes with my own twist that show off some Spain's wonderful food
I’ve fallen head over heels in love with Spain. I’m totally smitten. In my ignorance, I avoided the country for years, having had a couple of unimpressive experiences in my early 20s that left me as cold as an uneaten all-day English breakfast.
It was Majorca that broke the impasse. One big family holiday unlocked something in me. I shopped, swam, then cooked in the sun. I drank cheap wine and revelled in all the deep garlicky flavours. I had lots of bad predictable tapas that made me want to cook good Spanish food.
Then came Barcelona, many times. I had my 40th there. The Boqueria market thrilled me time and time again. Then Las Ramblas began to bore me. Madrid with it’s history and majesty gave me more than just food. It opened up my eyes to the greatness of this incredible country.
Watching my daughters eat clams in El Rinconcillo in joyous Seville filled my heart with quiet pride. The restaurant has been there since 1670. This reminds one that we are indeed just passing through.
Galicia came next. I walked the Camino with a friend from Vigo to Santiago de Compostela. It was a life-changing experience that had nothing to do with religion. A pilgrimage with friends to San Sebastián and the famous grill restaurant Extebarri was another delirious excursion.
Then just a few weeks ago, one more time, another Camino, but not to Santiago this time. A walk from Bilbao to Santander with my brother Declan, who has just retired.
All our lives we have been like ships in the night, always too busy to spend proper time together. Our trip was a series of delicious encounters along the Cantabrian Coast. We walked and talked all day and talked more into the night over many small cervezas. I’m very glad we went together.
Food is ingrained in the Spanish, it’s indelibly part of them. I love a Spanish influence in my food. It can be ultra-traditional or sometimes I change it around and make it my own, just like this slightly eccentric turnip tortilla.
The chicken dish is total comfort food and very easy to make. The chickpea dressing is a staple that I use with so many things. It is particularly brilliant with this chicken dish but can also be used with fish, roasted veg or even served over rice on its own. Saffron is a luxury, of course, but it’s the heartbeat of Spanish cooking and a staple of the keen cook’s cupboard.
1 large onion sliced
A splash of olive oil
350g potatoes peeled and very finely sliced (a mandolin is best for this)
Half a turnip, roughly grated
4 cloves of garlic, sliced finely
8 eggs beaten
1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 Place a large, non-stick, oven proof frying pan on a low heat.
2 Squeeze all the water out of the grated turnip. Cook the onion and the turnip in the oil until soft – around 15 minutes or so. Add the potatoes, garlic and rosemary. Mix well, cover and cook for a further 15 to 20 minutes. Check at this point if potatoes are cooked through. If not, give them a bit more time. It’s important they are fully cooked.
3 Add the cream to the beaten eggs and mix this through the potato and turnip mixture.
4 Smooth out the mixture and place in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees Celsius, or equivalent, for 20 minutes, or until just set.
5 Remove the tortilla from the oven and loosen around the sides with a spatula. Turn out on to a plate. This is lovely served warm or at room temperature, with a generous blob of aioli.
CATALAN CHICKEN AND BUTTERBEAN BAKE
8 chicken thighs
200g chorizo, cut into chunks
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
A drizzle of olive oil
½ tsp of smoked paprika
1 tin of butterbeans
Juice of half an orange
A sprig of rosemary
1 Preheat an oven to 185 degrees Celsius, or equivalent.
2 Place the chicken thighs and rosemary on a roasting tray. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and season with salt and pepper.
3 Place in the oven for 20 minutes.
4 Then add the chorizo, cream, smoked paprika, butterbeans, garlic and orange juice. Turn everything together, making sure everything is coated, but leaving the chicken thighs skin side up.
5 Cook for a further 15 minutes or so. Season and serve over rice.
SAFFRON CHICKPEAS WITH SULTANAS AND ORANGE
1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of one orange
Zest of ½ an orange
1 heaped tbsp of sultanas
1 tsp of honey
1 clove of garlic, crushed
A small pinch of saffron
A hint of dried chilli
Salt and pepper
150ml of light olive oil
1 Soak the sultanas in boiling water. Give them time to plump up. Drain and set aside.
2 Warm the orange juice and zest and add the saffron to it.
3 Allow to infuse for five minutes.
4 Add the garlic, honey, chickpeas, sultanas, chilli flakes and olive oil. Season and serve. This is delicious served warm.