3 Warm Spanish Stews (& Recipes!): Callos, Fabada, Lentejas

If you asked me what my favorite part of Spanish cooking is, I wouldn’t answer with tortilla (potato omelet), jamón (cured ham), or paella (a meat-and-veggies rice dish). What I love most about the cuisine of Spain is the country’s savory tradition of soups and stews. Usually centered around one of what I like to call the Holy Trinity of Spanish Legumes—chickpeas, white beans, and lentils—these one-pot meals cook on low heat for hours, letting the flavors of the aromatic veggies and spiced sausages combine together to create a simple, yet tasty, product.

When cooler temperatures roll around in November, restaurant cooks and abuelas alike will start preparing these warm, comforting stews that are beloved by Spaniards but under-appreciated by foreigners. Let me share with you three of the essential stews to try if you visit Spain off-season (or to try your hand at in your own kitchen). Each recipe serves 4 to 6 people, or one person and enough leftovers for a week!

Callos con garbanzos (Tripe and chickpea stew)

Callos con garbanzos / Spanish tripe with chickpeas
(Source: Héctor Herrero)

This dish’s literal translation—“tripe with chickpeas”—may not sound very appetizing, and I’ll admit, it’s not for everyone. But as cow stomach cooks for three hours with spices like cumin, black pepper, and cloves, it’s transformed into comfort food—medallions of some good Spanish chorizo help, too. I’ve had heaping bowls of this stuff all over the country and the tripe meat has always been melt-in-your-mouth tender, not chewy or slimy by any means. The earthy chickpeas add a nice contrast of texture and flavor to this stew.

Ingredients

  • 500g (1 pound) tripe (ask your butcher to clean it)
  • 1 lemon
  • vinegar
  • 250g (1/2 pound) dried chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 dash ground cloves
  • 2 chorizo sausages
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight for at least 12 hours, changing the water every 4 to 6 hours.
  2. Let the tripe soak for an hour or so in water with some vinegar and squeezed lemon quarters. Make sure to clean it vigorously under running water, washing off the slime. Alternatively, you can double check with your butcher to make sure it’s already cleaned.
  3. Chop the clean tripe and then blanch it by bringing it to a boil with a little water, then turning off the heat and pouring off the water. They are now ready to cook.
  4. First sauté the diced onion, then add the garlic and spices until everything is nice and toasty.
  5. Add the tripe to the spice mixture, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
  6. Once the water is boiling, add the dried chickpeas, bring back to a boil, and then let cook over low heat for at least 3 hours, until the tripe and chickpeas are tender.
  7. Slice the chorizo, season with salt, and serve.


Fabada asturiana (Asturian white bean stew)

Fabada asturiana / Asturian white bean stew
(Source: Julio López)

Considered the national dish of the region of Asturias along Spain’s northern coast, Asturian white bean stew is beautiful in its simplicity. At its most essential, fabada is simply a pound of large white beans cooked with one link of chorizo, one link of blood pudding sausage, and a hunk of thick bacon. But while a basic fabada is just beans + meat, many Spaniards like to add aromatic flavorings like garlic, bay leaves, smoked paprika, and even saffron. After stewing for several hours, the white beans turn the stock thick and creamy, and the paprika-spiced meat turns the soup an attractive bright orange.

Ingredients

  • 500g (1 pound) dried large white beans
  • 1 link of chorizo
  • 1 link of blood pudding sausage (morcilla)
  • 1 hunk of thick bacon or pancetta, about 1/4 pound
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

  1. Soak the beans overnight for at least 12 hours, changing the water every 4 t o 6 hours.
  2. Add all the ingredients to the pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
  3. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for at least 3 hours, until the beans are creamy and tender.
  4. Slice the meat, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Lentejas (Lentil stew)

Lentejas / Spanish lentil stew
(Source: Xurxo Martínez)

If my personal comfort food is Mom’s meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes, then every Spaniard’s comfort food is lentil stew. (Although apparently it’s not everyone’s, since there’s a rhyme that goes lentejas, comida de viejas, si quieres, las comes, y si no, las dejas, “lentil stew: old ladies’ cooking; if you want ’em, then eat ’em, but if not, leave ’em.”)

I tend to make lentejas a couple times a month because it’s cheap, healthy, tasty, and a fast and easy recipe to make. What more could you ask for in a meal? This stew consists of boiled green lentils, sausages, and root and aromatic veggies. But the two keys to a good pot of lentejas are some Spanish sausages—which will add can’t-wait-for-seconds savoriness—and a small potato—which will help thicken the whole broth. Lentil stew is also the ultimate Spanish leftover dish that you will often find in lunchtime break rooms across the country.

Ingredients

  • 250g or 2 cups dried lentils
  • 2 links of chorizo
  • 5 carrots
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1 golden potato
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Directions

  1. Chop all the vegetables.
  2. Add all the ingredients to the pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
  3. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for up to 1 hour until the lentils are no longer firm.
  4. Slice the sausage, season with salt and pepper, stir in the vinegar, and serve.


What’s your favorite part of Spanish cooking? Do you pass over lentejas or look forward to their leftovers? Comment in the discussion thread below!

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