The phone call from an old dear friend came on Thursday night telling me that he would be arriving the next day, staying in London for a couple of days and then disappearing once again to yet another country for the next six months. I was gutted, as the realization of not been able to see him, due a weekend of Supperclubs quickly sunk in, but as I explained that I was going to be busy all weekend cooking for over sixty people. He explained that this was one of the reason's why he came back for a few days - to come and eat at the Green Onion Supperclub before we closed the doors at our present location and relocate to a new space in East London and would it be possible to squeeze him in on the Sunday. I was delighted to say the least.
Normally when he's back in London, we go to posh fancy restaurants for dinner as a treat, well a treat for me to be more precise . Each time we go out I try to bully him out of his eating comfort zone. The sight of him slightly freaking out over a massive bowl of langoustines and mayo at St John's, with the realization that if he wanted one, he would have to peel it himself, left me with a small smirk on my face for days after.
I was looking forward to seeing my friend on Sunday and the thought of been able to give him a proper home cooked meal was both unbearable and satisfying at the same time. The poor sod survives mainly on Room Service, meals in restaurants or takeaways when he's away traveling with work, which I would find absolutely soul destroying. The thought of not even been able to prepare a simple cheese sandwich fills me full of horror and dread. In fact it would actually keep me up with nightmares each night, if I thought about it a bit too long.
Late on Saturday evening I received a phone call from him saying that plans for Sunday were scuppered due to a trapped nerve in his neck after bounding out of bed that morning in a bid to seize the day. I was quickly told not to fear as the trapped nerve meant that he had to stay in London for a few more days before he would be ready for traveling again and that dinner on Monday would be a great time to catch up and hopefully catch up with some other friends as well.
By the time Monday came I really couldn't muster the energy to go in to town and eat in a restaurant and invited everyone for dinner to mine instead. So with a quick trip to the Italian deli, Parioli on Lower Clapton Road and the Turkish Supermarket I head off home with a few bags of groceries to prepare some easy eating, sharing food for everyone to enjoy. Which would go well with the 10 litres of Italian red wine that a lovely guest had left the day before, as he had enjoyed his meal at the Supper Club so much.
Laying out the cold meats, cheese and anti pasta for everyone to share, I decided to quickly throw together some Patatas Bravos and Garbanzos con espinacas (Spanish Spinach and Chickpeas) to go with the cold food to add a bit of substance to the meal and to remind us all of a holiday that we had shared in Spain last year (which finally allowed me to go back to visit my adoptive Spanish family who I use to live with in Barcelona in my early twenties, but thats a whole other blogpost). Garbanzos con espinacas is a quick easy dish that can be out together in minutes perfect for last minute entertaining.
Garbanzos con espinacas (Spanish Spinach and Chickpeas)
1 Large tin of Chickpeas - rinsed and drained
1 Large bag of baby spinach
1 brown Onion - chopped
2 cloves of Garlic - finely chopped
Vegetable stock or a splash of white wine if feeling decadent
250g of bread crumbs made from day oldish bread
Large teaspoon of Ground Cumin
Large teaspoon of Pimentón - Spanish Paprika
Maldon and Black Pepper.
1.In a heavy based pan, fry off the bread crumbs in a little oil, once slightly browned remove from pan in to a bowl.
2. Add a drop more oil and add onion first and sweat them for a few minutes.
3. Once onions have sweated for a few moments add the garlic and sweat for a further 10 minutes.
4. Add the rinsed chickpeas to the pan and add the Cumin and Pimenton to the chickpeas and onions.
5. Once chickpeas and onions are coated in the spice mix, add enough veg stock to slightly cover the mix and reduce the stock down for a few moments.
6. Add spinach to pan and then place lid over the pan and wait for spinach to wilt down.
7. Once the spinach has wilted down, season with the Maldon and black pepper and add the breadcrumbs back to the pan.
Serve immediately with other small sharing plates or can be eaten on its own with some bread or salad if you feel the need. The dish went down well - really well in fact as there was none left when we had finished eating, must have been the home cooking that did it I guess !
I love this dish, it reminds me of days spent traveling around Spain with friends, teaching small children in Barcelona how to speak Yorkshire Spanglish for a living and throughly enjoying myself in the sunshine without a care in the world. Most of all though it reminds me of sharing food, wine and laughter with friends over a dinner table, whether it be in Spain or in Hackney, that's a good memory to keep hold of.