Barcelona’s La Boqueria is perhaps the most famous food market in the world, and the most famous of its restaurants is undoubtedly Pinotxo, run by the equally famous Juanito Bayen. His immaculate sense of dress and reputation for treating his guests like family have made him and his 14-stool establishment legendary. Everyone in the know food-wise, it seems, has made a beeline for his place when passing through Barcelona on their way to other notable establishments like El Celler de Can Roca and Albert Adria’s Bodega 1900.
Everyone, that is, except us. In fact, during our visit to Barcelona, we didn’t even make it to La Boqueria, in spite of staying about 300 yards away down Las Ramblas, and we must have walked past it more than a few times as we explored the city. If this makes us bad foodies, then that’s something we’re going to have to live with until improved finances and independent children allow us to return.
To be fair, the same is also true of London’s storied Borough Market. Although in its case, I was a resident of London for three years so the circumstances are less extenuating. That is, unless one considers it within the context of the absolute penury which living in London in my early 20s reduced me to. As such, my unwillingness to put myself through the anguish of gawping at a sea of unattainable comestibles as I jangled hard-earned coppers in my threadbare pockets may be understood.
Almost as famous as Bayen’s bowtie and broad smile are the impeccable Catalan dishes turned out of a kitchen no larger than a shower stall by his nephew Albert Asin. Taking inspiration from the bounty available on the surrounding market stalls, Asin’s cooking takes advantage of La Boqueria’s world-class produce and seafood: red prawns a la plancha from Palamos dusted with sel de Guerande, soupy rice dishes from Catalunya’s lower camp near Tarragona jam-packed with bosky wild mushrooms or delicate cigalas, and, in winter, a stunning dish of crumbled butifarra negra, black sausage, with chickpeas in the Catalan style.
We may not have visited La Boqueria or any of the other aforementioned restaurants during our visit but we did make sure to consume our fair share of butifarra sausage, both white and black, so when we spied a recipe from Pinotxo while reviewing the new book "Charcuteria – The Soul of Spain" it seemed an appropriate way of making up for having missed out on Pinotxo during our visit.
The dish, as we made it – and it should be noted that we used Jeffrey Weiss’ recipe more as an inspiration than a recipe – is more or less a quick stove-top stew since we took the liberty of using canned chickpeas rather than dried, used a Portuguese morcilla, blood sausage, we had brought back from Montreal, and added two chorizos to the ingredient list.
Eaten in the early spring, with wintry sausage and beans rubbing shoulders with young, fresh peas and watercress, it was as good on a cool, rainy day as the bright, warm one that followed. With the contrast of the black sausage, the sandy chickpeas, the auburn chorizo, and the emerald peas; the variety of textures, and sweetness of the morcilla – it’s a whole lot packed into a single dish, reflecting perfectly Asin’s tiny kitchen and Pinotxo’s elbow-to-elbow conviviality.
Chickpeas with blood sausage, garbanzos con butifarra negra
Adapted from Jeffrey Weiss’ "Charcuteria – The Soul of Spain"
(Feeds 2 hungry adults as a main, or 4 as a tapa with bread)
Note: Butifarra negra is more similar to a French boudin noir than to a typical Spanish morcilla in that it can be crumbled on account of it containing diced pork colored/flavored with blood rather than predominantly blood coagulated around grains. If you have butifarra type sausage then by all means crumble it rather than slicing the morcilla as we did. And depending on the texture of your morcilla, we would recommend cooking it separately first before slicing otherwise it may well just fall apart.
1 16-ounce can of chickpeas, undrained
1 8-ounce link of blood sausage (morcilla, boudin noir, butifarra negra), cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 small chorizos (or 1 larger one), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 medium onion, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4-6 ounces fresh or frozen peas
2 good handfuls of watercress
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons golden raisins/sultanas
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 tablespoon Oloroso sherry (sweet Marsala will also work in a pinch) [*editors note: May also substitute 1 tablespoon cooking wine and a pinch of sugar or 1 tablespoon unsweetened orange or apple juice and a dash of vanilla extract]
Salt and black pepper
1. In a bowl, soak golden raisins/sultanas in the sherry for up to an hour until they are nicely plump.
2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, sweat the onion in the olive oil until translucent.
3. Add blood sausage and chorizo and cook for a couple of minutes until edges/skins become slightly crispy.
4. Add garlic and cook until fragrant – 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Strain golden raisins/sultanas from sherry, and de-glaze pan with it, stirring well to scrape up good stuff from bottom of pan.
6. After another 2 minutes, add chickpeas/garbanzos with canning liquid and stir well.
7. Add frozen peas and watercress. Cook another 1 to 2 minutes until they’re cooked/wilted but still bright green.
8. Add pine nuts and golden raisins/sultanas and stir well. You should have a dish that isn’t very saucy but not totally dry either. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper.