This is a classic Seville tapa: every bar has a version of it. It might not sound exciting, but you will never regret trying it. It’s delicious and much healthier than the many deep-fried or meat-heavy tapas available. Suitable for vegans as well as vegetarians. We don’t often have it as a tapa at home — it makes a great light lunch or first course, with some flatbread. I use the recipe from my favourite Spanish cookbook, Anya von Bremzen’s The New Spanish Table, which I can’t recommend too highly.
I use the young spinach leaves sold for salad — easy to wash and no need to pick off tough stalks. I also use jars of chickpeas — Spanish brands are best.
About 500 g fresh spinach
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp sweet paprika (pimentón dulce in Spain)
1 dried guindilla pepper, split and seeds removed, or a few red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano or dried herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 can tomatoes
1 can or jar of chickpeas
1 pinch saffron, crushed and soaked in a tbsp of hot water
1 pinch sugar
salt and pepper
2 tsp sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar will do)
Rinse the spinach and shake off excess water. Put in a pan with a lid and cook covered for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until it has completely wilted. Drain in a colander and press down hard with a large spoon to get rid of excess liquid. When cool enough to handle, chop roughly. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a large frying pan and gently cook half the garlic without browning, for about a minute. Add all the herbs and spices except the saffron and salt and pepper. Stir for a few seconds, then add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes or so, till it thickens slightly. Stir in the spinach and chickpeas, add the saffron, and season with a tiny bit of sugar, and salt and pepper. Simmer gently to combine the flavours; it only needs about ten minutes, but you can be quite flexible about this.
Crush the remaining garlic in a mortar and add the vinegar. Stir this into the spinach mixture and let it sit on the lowest heat for a few minutes to mellow. Taste and adjust seasoning. This is better when it’s not piping hot, so let it stand for 5-10 minutes before serving with bread.