The use of pears, cumin seeds and mint in a vegetarian stew may seem like a modern invention, but in fact they are traditional ingredients in olla gitana, a wonderfully rib-sticking dish that hails from Murcia, in southeastern Spain. Like many other stews, olla gitana tastes even better the following day, which makes it a great make-ahead choice for a vegetarian dinner party.
Winter Squash, Potato, Pear and Chickpea Stew
- 1 lb. (500 g) dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 lb. (500 g) potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 12 oz. (375 g) butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 3 to 4 ripe pears, peeled if desired, cored and coarsely chopped
- 12 oz. (375 g) romano beans or other green beans, cut into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tomato, peeled and finely chopped or grated
- 1 tsp. cumin seed, ground in a mortar and pestle
- Fine sea salt
- 1 tsp. pimentón (Spanish smoked pepper)
- 1 handful fresh mint leaves
1. Drain the chickpeas. In a heavy flameproof casserole dish or a stockpot, combine the chickpeas, 3 quarts (3 l) cold water and the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chickpeas are almost tender, about 45 minutes. (The cooking time can vary significantly depending on how old the beans are and how hard your water is, so check them frequently.) Add the potatoes and butternut squash and cook for 15 minutes longer. Add the pears and green beans and cook until both are tender, 4 to 6 minutes.
2. While the vegetables are cooking, in a fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until just beginning to color, about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 1 minutes. Add the tomato, cumin, 1 tsp. salt and the pimentón. Mix well, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for a few more minutes. Add the onion mixture to the chickpea and vegetable mixture.
3. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have mingled and the chickpeas are completely soft.
4. Remove from the heat, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Stir in the mint leaves and serve. Serves 6 to 8.
Find more than 100 recipes for the simple, unassuming, and satisfying food of the Spanish countryside in Rustic Spanish, by Paul Richardson.