Friday, 25 January 2013

Reciprocal dinners, and estofado del zapatero

A while back, I think in early November, my friends C. and E. suggested a dinner exchange between the three of us. The idea is to take turns cooking a mid-week dinner for the other two; just sharing a meal and a couple of hours of an evening as regularly as we have time for.

Having dinner with friends in the middle of the week is something I would really recommend. Why leave socialising for the weekend? Spending a couple of hours with friends on a Monday means, at least to me, that Tuesday is just a tad bit more fun. It is also interesting how the topics discussed over a dinner after work often has more to do with our day-to-day lives, while weekend dinner parties (with wine) more often go off in a more philosophical direction.

There are some restrictions in the diets of my two friends, meaning that meals tend to have to be vegetarian. I keep an eye out for new ideas, because although I was pescetarian (on a limited budget) for many years I have in my new omnivore diet a craving for more advanced vegetarian dishes than those I used to make. The main dish I plan to serve my friends next time I host the reciprocal dinner is a combination of two different dishes, both from Observer Food Monthly magazine. The theme of the 19 January issue was budget eating, something that suits me very well. Apart from a shockingly bad OFM cover (a closeup of plump, lipsticked lips and some chips of the fancier type), I liked the look of many of the recipes. I was especially caught by the vegetarian chickpea, pumpkin, spinach and walnut estofado by Jos√© Pizarro, and the savoury cobbler by Miss South. The idea for estofado del zapatero – my pidgin Spanish translation of estofado cobbler – was born. I should maybe point out that zapatero means cobbler as in the profession rather than the American favourite dessert. Hispanic friends, please forgive me this.

¡Mira el estofado del zapatero! Photo: Helene Fr√∂ssling

Estofado del zapatero for four

1 small onion
6 garlic cloves
1 stick celery
1 can (400 g) chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 can (400g) of cannelloni beans
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1.5 cm chunks (around 700g of flesh)
600 ml vegetable stock
2 tsp ras-el-hanout (spice mix, can be found in good supermarkets and Middle Eastern shops)
1 tsp ground cumin
60g of fresh spinach leaves

300g  plain flour
100g porridge oats
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mustard powder
4 tsp oil
300 ml yoghurt, plain

Turn on the oven at 200C.

First make a sofrito. Chop the onion and celery into small pieces, and fry over a low heat to soften. Add the crushed garlic towards the end, and let cook without burning for a minute or two. Add the can of tomatoes, making sure to mash any bigger chunks to make a smoother sofrito, and cook on until the juices have disappeared and the sofrito is quite dense. Add the chunks of butternut squash, the spices and the stock, and cook until the squash is tender. Up until this point you can prepare up to a couple of days in advance, and store in an airtight container in the fridge before reheating. You need the dish to be hot before the next step!

The next stage is to add the beans and let them heat through. Add the spinach and put the lid on to let the spinach wilt into the rest of the estofado. Check the seasoning.

The cobbler dough can be made while the butternut squash is cooking. In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients. Stir in the yoghurt and oil to create a dough. The dough should be soft and smooth, not sticky. Flatten out the dough on a lightly floured surface to no more than 1 cm thickness, and using for example a small glass or a cookie cutter make dough discs.

Transfer the estofado into an oven dish; mine measures roughly 25x25x5cm. Smooth out. Cover the top with the dough discs. Bake in the middle of the oven for around 25 minutes or until the discs have risen and are golden brown. Allow the dish to cool slightly for a few minutes before serving with a dressed green salad.

Tip: If you have any dough discs left when the estofado is covered, bake them on a small tray alongside the estofado to make a savoury scone – perfect with wintery soups!

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