When I was about 3 years old my family spent 3 months in Granada in the south of Spain. My dad was on a sabbatical with work and my mum was still on maternity leave after my little brother and sister had been born. Some of my earliest memories are from our time in Spain – vague, fuzzy recollections of eating jamón sliced off the bone on the balcony of our apartment, rows of kids lined up on the floor for our afternoon siestas at my nursery school and the very specific way that my nursery teacher used to peel fresh oranges (still known to this day as “The Mercedes Way” in our household). To help with all the children at home we had a live-in au-pair, a Spanish woman called Coco, and this is one of her recipes. It’s a rich, hearty stew and despite its peasant origins the dish has bags and bags (and bags) of flavour.
To get the depth of flavour in this dish you really need to get the right bit of Serrano ham – not the light meat which is sliced into thin slivers for eating, but the tough, dark meat right next to the bone usually used for stocks. Of course, if you’re living in Spain then getting your hands on this is easy, but it’s a slightly trickier task in the UK. Try Spanish or Mexican (or other) delis or even the deli counter at your local supermarket – they might do you a nice deal on this part of the ham. In my area of Edinburgh I was struggling to find the meat when I struck the jackpot at the tapas restaurant Tápame. The lovely chef there very kindly gave me a whole Serrano ham bone, which not only had plenty of dark meat on it but also added the most delicious, decadent flavour to the stew. You don’t need to add a bone to the stew – it isn’t included in Coco’s original recipe – but lucky you if you can find one! Be careful about adding salt if you use a bone – you probably won’t need to add any extra salt at all. If you can’t find any dark meat at all, then you can still use slices of the lighter ham, but the flavour won’t be quite the same.
Broad beans are in season right now, and won’t last much longer than the month, so get out to your local green grocers and get cooking!
One year ago:
– Mini puff pastry apple pies
Ingredients (serves two as a main course, or more as part of a spread of tapas)
150-200g dark serrano ham (or a 500g bone, with meat)
1.5-2kg fresh broad beans still in their pods (about 500-600g once podded)
6-8 large Spanish spring onions or 1 white onion
2 garlic cloves
Extra virgin olive oil
Small glass of white wine
Freshly ground black pepper and salt
Optional to serve: fresh bread and poached eggs
1. If you have managed to get your mitts on a gorgeous serrano ham bone then remove as much of the tough, dark meat as possible. You will need a small, very sharp knife to do this – I actually used my Swiss Army pen knife. If you have bought a chunk of meat then simply chop into small pieces.
2. Pod the broad beans (one of the most therapeutic kitchen tasks) and set aside for later.
3. Chop the onions and finely chop the garlic cloves.
4. Heat about 4 tbsp of good quality olive oil in a pan (large enough to hold the ham bone if you are using one). Add the onions and garlic and gently fry on a low heat for 5-10 minutes until soft.
5. Stir in the serrano ham, and continue to cook gently for about 5 minutes.
6. Add the broad beans to the pot and stir to coat well in the oil. Increase the heat and pour in the wine, allowing it to bubble for a couple of minutes.
7. Reduce the heat to the very lowest setting possible and nestle the ham bone amongst the beans. Cover the pan with a lid and cook very slowly for 2 hours. Keep an eye on the stew while it cooks and if it looks particularly dry add a splash of water.
8. Taste and season with black pepper (and salt, if necessary). Serve immediately, or leave to cool and reheat later. This can be kept in the fridge, or even the freezer, if you want to make it in advance.
9. To serve, gently poach 2 eggs (I managed to find some incredible duck eggs at our local organic shop) and slice some crusty bread to soak up all the delicious liquid at the bottom of the stew.