Monday, 25 June 2012


Maybe it's the rain in Spain that makes their renowned habas or broad beans grow so well.  So perhaps the wet weather we have been enjoying this summer has brought on our bumper crop in the allotment, a flood of plump, green beans in fleece-lined pods.

Over the years, we have worked our way through a considerable amount of habas con morcilla, often for breakfast in La Boqueria, the fantastic food market in the centre of Barcelona. Soft, bittersweet beans and salty, spicy morcilla: they complement each other perfectly.
La Boqueria, Barcelona
This version isn't especially original, nor is it tricky to make. But when a classic dish is this good, simple cooking with fresh ingredients is all it takes.
We already have plenty of beans, so when some real Spanish morcilla comes along, the decision is simple.  Morcilla is to blood pudding what chorizo is to the standard, pale-pink, bland, value-pack English sausage; it is rich in garlic, paprika and various other spices, with pearls of fat that melt into the sauce creating a velvety texture and strong, intense flavours.

First pick your beans; make sure they are as fresh as possible, for they coarsen very quickly once off the stem.  Ideally, each individual bean will be no larger than the size of a thumbnail. 

1kg         freshly picked broad beans (= approx 500g podded beans)
150g       morcilla
1tbs        olive oil
2 cloves  garlic chopped finely
2 tsps     fennel seeds lightly bruised to release flavour
1 tsp       dried chilli flakes
 3tbs       stock (or water)
zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon
chopped mint and parsley to garnish

Chop the morcilla into thickish slices and fry gently, turning once, until cooked through (10 mins).  While this is cooking, pod the beans, separating the larger beans from the smaller ones. It is better to use only the smaller beans, as all the flavour is then kept in the pan; larger beans have such coarse skins that it detracts from the final dish, so pre-cooking is advisable.
Boil the larger beans in salted water until cooked (5 mins) and then drain, keeping a small amount of the water to add to the stock if needed. Run them under water until cool.  Slip them out of their skins.
Put the cooked morcilla to one side and pour off most of the fat, trying to keep any paprika-rich goo at the bottom of the pan. 
Put the chopped garlic and fennel seeds into the pan and allow to cook for a minute or two over a low heat (take care not to burn the garlic, as this creates a bitter flavour). Then add the small beans and stock / water.  Let this simmer for about 5 mins, or until the beans are cooked but not too soft. If it dries out too much add some of the reserved bean water.
Add the cooked, skinned beans, chilli flakes, lemon zest and juice; stir until hot.  Add the morcilla and allow this to warm for a few minutes. Some people like to stir the morcilla vigorously, so it breaks up; other prefer to keep the slices whole, if so stir only gently.

Serve with chopped parsley and mint and with a slice of sourdough bread or toast.  
A glass of fino or San Miguel goes well with this. Or do what the Spaniards do for breakfast and chase it down with a shot of Soberano brandy.

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