300g dried beans, soaked overnight, use the traditional fabada bean, or cannellini, they’re much the same
4 torpedo-shaped shallots
1 scant tablespoon lard, home-made if possible
2 Packs fabada meats
½ pack of panceta
3 teaspoons sweet paprika (traditionally, this should be smoked, which I don’t like)
When everything is cooked, taste, and season with salt and black pepper as needed. NEVER cook beans in water that has been salted, or which contains a stock cube; they’ll take forever and the skins will be hard.
I was originally taken by the fabada in Rick Stein’s TV series, Spain, but as I said in this post the recipe in his book of the same name is something of a grease-fest, with back fat, fat bacon, chorizo and morcilla, topped off with butter! I also wasn’t all that thrilled by the fact that the usual basis for a stew, aromatics gently sweated off in fat or oil, didn’t happen (just because a dish is traditional doesn’t mean it can’t be tweaked/improved)).
A look around Google quickly showed that there are many fabada variants (some adding fried aromatics, like garlic, later in the process), so I saw no problem with going down the shallots and lard route, and also omitting the saffron that Stein has in his recipe. The back fat wasn’t an issue, as it’s unavailable.
The fabada meat packs contain a cooking chorizo (but see comments below), and a small morcilla, plus a piece of fat pork – extremely fat, as it happened, so that’s cut up into chunks and is quietly rendering down in the mini oven, and I’ve replaced it with a hefty hunk of panceta, cut into two equal pieces, which is much more meaty.
Stein says to cook the fabada for 2 hours, which seems rather too long for me. Hell, even chickpeas would be soft in that time, so I’ll see how it goes.** I’ll add the chorizo when the beans have plumped up, so that they have time to flavour the beans, and the morcilla, which feels quite delicate, near the end (in fact, in its casing it feels as soft as mine turned out, which is reassuring).
**It did occur to me that the cazuela, the terracotta dish in which this is traditionally cooked, might need to be on a lower heat than a metal container. It’s also cooked uncovered, which would slow things down quite a bit too, so play this by ear, and assess for yourself – by tasting – when it’s ready.
So, the method:-.
Peel and finely chop the shallots, and sweat over a low heat so that they soften without colouring. Stir occasionally. DO NOT add salt, a common technique to stop alliums browning.
When soft, stir in the paprika and cook out for a few minutes, add the panceta, and the beans, and just cover with boiling water (check occasionally to make sure everything is covered, and top up with boiling water if necessary). Make sure no beans stick on top of the meat – they won’t cook.
When the beans have plumped up and are just starting to soften, add the chorizo, and push well down – add more water if necessary. I floated the morcilla on the top after 15-20 minutes, giving them a brief but gentle dunk to ensure they were well moistened.
Oh bugger! As I’ve been writing this, and doing other stuff online, I haven’t noticed how long it took. I’ve a feeling it might just be about 2 hours though. Ah well…
By the time the beans were well cooked, the panceta and morcilla were cooked to perfection, the former wonderfully tender (I removed the skin and excess fat – boiled fat has few charms, frankly). The chorizo, however, were not – they were rock-hard, so I took some of the liquid out of the pot and continued to cook the chorizo in a small pan. In future, this harder, semi-cured type will go in at the start, though I’d be minded to use soft, cooking chorizo which is a fresh sausage.
Or not, because after 40 minutes at a brisk simmer, it was still impenetrable with a fork, so I scraped off the disgustingly slimy skin (god knows what it was made of, but it wasn’t the normal casing I’m used to) – when scraped off it looked like – well, frankly, it looked like something that might have crawled out of a sewage plant and died, it sure as hell didn’t look like any form of foodstuff. The chorizo itself, when sliced, had no discernible meat texture – I can’t begin to guess what the hell it was made of – a slurry of MRM, blood and collagen would be my best guess – it’s going in the bin! (I suspect the problem is that the chorizo casing was abnormally thick, as the micro-thin casings on my own sausages pretty much disappear when casseroled.
I have some proper, fresh, chorizo – I’ll cook up a couple of those and add them tomorrow. I’ve left the link for the fabada meats, but I strongly advise against buying, as the chorizo is unutterably shit. But if you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Interestingly, the morcilla was in a relatively small-diameter (and normal!), artificial casing, so I see no reason I can’t use my artificial casings, the 28mm ones are the right size. I’ll have to buy a filling kit as the mix is too wet to use my normal sausage filler, but they’re only about a tenner. I still think, though, that the standard blood hydration, as I’ve said, is too dilute, but as morcilla is clearly a very much softer product than our own black pudding, not, perhaps, as dilute as I thought.
I hereby pronounce myself officially impressed with my morcilla recipe, which would have been even better had I remembered the sodding paprika! 😉
I’d give this a #spoonie rating of
It’s been suggested that, as a #spoonie,** I could rate my recipes using #spoonie spoons, so I shall, starting now. 1spoon = very easy to 5 spoons = doable but take it easy, maybe over 2 days, 6 spoons = get someone else to do it! This one gets 2 spoons purely because of the chopping of the shallots and cutting up hot meat, plus the trips to the kitchen to add the chorizo and morcilla; technically it’s very easy. Special equipment needed – tongs make removing the hot meat easier, otherwise use a large, slotted spoon to remove the various parts to a plate, not as Stein says, a board – way too messy and dribbly.
**See this blog for lots of info on The Spoon Theory, particularly if you suffer from chronic illness and have trouble coping – The Spoon Theory provides an easy way to explain how and why this is to others. (In a nutshell, we start each day with a finite number of spoons; everything we do uses up our spoon allocation, until we run out of spoons/reach exhaustion.)