Potaje de Vigilia (Spanish Fasting Soup with Beans, Thickened with Bread)

By • January 16, 2012 • 0 Comments



Author Notes: From what I gather, there are versions of this soup all over Spain. I think, but am not certain, that what they have in common is chickpeas and bread to thicken the soup. They might also usually have spinach and potatoes. If I sound wishy washy, it is because I really don’t know anything about the soup, except I happened to come across 2 different versions of it from 2 different regions of Spain in 2 different cookbooks–and decided I would take what I liked best from both recipes to come up with my own. Which means mine is probably not very authentic but oh my lord it was delicious.
So where did I find it and what versions? First I found an Andalusian version from Clifford Wright in his book The Best Soups in the World. It intrigued me, and when I realized it was a traditional Lenten soup I figured I might find some versions of it in some of my other Spanish cookbooks. I forget if I checked all of them, but I did indeed find it in Claudia Roden’s outstanding The Food of Spain. Her version is Castilian, and she refers to it as a spinach and chickpea soup, with a meat free version during Lent.
The Spiced Life

Serves 10

For the Beans

  • 4 cups mixed dried beans, including at least some chickpeas
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 splash Spanish extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the soup, including the thickening puree

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoon Spanish extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 6 medium red potatoes, cubed (peel if desired but I don't)
  • good quality vegetable or chicken stock to cover the potatoes completely, around 6 cups or more
  • 1 pound spinach, tough stems removed and chopped (more if desired)
  • 3-4 hard boiled eggs, yolks removed and whites chopped
  • 8 thick slices of French bread (not baguette)
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 cup (approx.) Spanish extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pinch hot pepper, such as cayenne
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar, plus more to taste
  1. Begin by soaking the beans the night before. I do this in the pot I am going to cook them in. The next day, cover them with water by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic and a drizzle of olive oil. Bring to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes. Then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until tender, checking to make sure they remain completely covered by the water. When they are tender, add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and let cook another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside until you are ready for them.
  2. Next (this is a soup that can simmer for a while, so just make this when it is convenient, at least an hour before dinner) heat a large Dutch oven with olive oil. When it is shimmering, add the chopped onion with a pinch of salt. Cook until golden, but not super browned. Add the potatoes and toss with the onions. Cover the potatoes by 2 inches of water with a good quality stock–I used the turkey stock I had in the freezer from the Thanksgiving turkey. Add more salt if using a homemade stock. Bring to a boil, and then cover, reducing the heat to maintain a brisk simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender (if it is close to dinner, cook until quite tender, if the soup will be gently simmering for a while, cook until crisp tender). Add the spinach and mix it in.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, heat a skillet with the 1/4-cup olive oil. Add the garlic–when the garlic starts sizzling, add the bread and cook until each side is golden. For the first few slices this took about 6 minutes, but as I went on, the sides cooked faster, so keep an eye on them. Also keep a close eye on the garlic–you want it golden brown but not burnt. As each item (garlic clove or bread) is ready, remove it to the food processor. When all of the bread and garlic has been fried, add the spices, vinegar and hard boiled egg yolks to the food processor as well. Puree until smooth, adding either the cooking water from the potatoes or the beans as needed to thin it out.
  4. At this point, when everything is ready–the beans, the potatoes and the bread puree–add the beans with their cooking water and the puree to the potatoes. Stir and bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer, stirring, to help dissolve the bread puree into the soup. This soup should be quite thick, more of a stew, but if you want it thinner add more stock. Right before serving, mix in the chopped hard boiled egg whites. Some of us liked the soup with a drizzle more of vinegar and a sprinkle of the smoked paprika.
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