Tapas 10: Intro To “Platos De Cuchara”

Puy Lentil And Butternut Squash Potage with Saffron And Smoked Paprika

If tapas defines what Spaniards eat out, the plato de cuchara (spoon dish) or plato único (single dish) defines what we have eaten at home through the centuries.

Based on beans, lentils and other pulses, vegetables are added for nutrition and flavour, herb-spice combinations providing further depth and character.  The traditional addition of fresh and cured meats, especially chorizo gives the final stew a characteristic smoky heat derived from the generous amounts of paprika therein.

This is a high protein dish per-se and doesn’t need meat, either for nutrition or flavour. We cut straight to the pure aroma of hot La Vera paprika with the extra addition of saffron, cumin, oregano and bay leaf. Some cooks add rice or barley for a full protein complement. We prefer a cleaner texture, serving the dish with crusty wholemeal bread and a bowl of lemon-scented olives.

What follows is a rich, spicy Puy lentil potage. It’s an uncomplicated dish to make: all the raw ingredients go into a pot with water. The dish is finished off with a generous glug of olive oil and a “majado” of crushed black pepper, garlic, salt and white wine or a little lemon juice for a fragrant top note. Simple.

andalusian puy lentil stew with butternut squash

Puy Lentil And Squash Potage With Smoked Paprika And Saffron

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Course: Main Course, tapas
Cuisine: French, Mediterranean, Spanish
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3-4 handfuls of puy lentils
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 4 mediuum tomatoes, skinned & chopped or 1 medium can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 butternut squash peeled and cut into large chunks

other vegetables

  • 1 large potato peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 carrots peeled and sliced
  • 1 stick of celery whole or cut in half

condiments

  • 1 sachet or a generous pinch of saffron strands soaked in a little hot water
  • 1 tsp smoked La Vera paprika, or more to taste hot or sweet
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds toasted in a dry pan until aromatic, then crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1/2 tsp lavender flowers fennel seed is a good alternative
  • generous pinch or two of oregano or marjoram
  • 2 bay leafs
  • a few sprigs of flat leaf parsley, stalks and all
  • salt to taste

for the "majado"

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • a few black peppercorns
  • a little white wine or lemon juice
  • a good glug of best olive oil cold press extra virgin

Instructions

Prepping

  • soak the saffron strands in a little hot water. This step is unneccesary for powdered saffron
  • wash and peel the onions and other vegetables. 
  • Cut the squash into large chunks and put aside.  
  • skin the tomatoes by plunging them in boiling hot water for half a minute, run them under a cold tap, make a couple of small cuts and remove the skin. Keep the seeds to avoid losing vital flavour and goodness. Chop the tomatoes coarsely. Alternatively use chopped canned tomatoes
  • toast the cumin and lavender / fennel seeds in a dry pan until they release their aroma. Avoid browning them. Coarsely grind them in a mortar and pestle.

Make The Potage

  • Add the onions, tomatoes, celery stalk, whole parsley and all the vegetables except the squash to a large pot with enough water to cover. Add the lentils, toasted spices, paprika, saffron and herbs. The salt goes in at the end as it can lengthen your lentils' cooking-time
  • Bring the potage boil and turn down the heat, simmering for 10 minutes. Add the squash, return to the boil, then simmer a further 15-20 minutes uncovered or partially covered only. 
  • If you need to add a little more water make sure it's boiling hot: cold water will shock your lentils and make them hard
  • when the vegetables are cooked and lentils soft but retaining a bite turn off the heat. Remove and discard the celery, parsley and bay leafs. Add a good glug of olive oil, season to taste then leave to rest, covered, for 10 minutes
  • meanwhile make the "majado" dressing: pound a clove of garlic with 5-6 peppercorns, loosen with a little white wine or lemon juice and water and add to the "potage" just before serving.
  • serve with very fresh wholemeal bread and a bowl of olives

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