Traditionally this is a vegetarian dish, but in this instance we include a meat option which you can use or not depending on your taste. The secret of any Potaje is the base of the dish known as “sofrito”. To make the “sofrito” you will need 5 peeled and deseeded good quality beef tomatoes. To do this you need to boil a pan of water and then add the tomatoes, but before adding, you need to cross hatch the top and bottom of the tomatos with a sharp knife. Leave the tomatoes in the boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes then remove and add the tomatoes to a bowl of cold water until cool. When cool, remove from water and simply pull off the tomato skins with your fingers. When peeled, cut the tomatos in half and with a spoon remove the seeded centres. Following this, chop the peeled and seeded tomatoes into a fine pulp and set aside. Next finely chop a large onion and 4 large garlic cloves. Next, using a heavy bottom deep pot add 200 ml of good quality olive oil (about a glass of oil). when oil is hot add all the ingridients and cook for at least half and hour, reducing the heat after 10 minutes so as the mixture is simmering lightly. At this point add 2 bay leaves, pinch of salt, ground black pepper and 2 tea spoons of sweet papikra. Now you will need to chop one middium size good quality chorizo sausage into small chunks. Add to a frying pan and lightly fry till well cooked. Then add this chorizo with oil it was cooked in to the “sofrito”. Let this cook this for another 10 – 15 minutes.
Now we are ready to add the next set of ingredients. Firstly drain and wash 2 jars of cooked chick peas and add to the mixture. Next add about 3/4 of a pint of good quality chicken stock and bring lightly to the boil and then add 8 handful of roughly chopped fresh Swiss Chard. This will reduce greatly in size once the chard becomes absorbed by the hot mixture and now just leave to simmer for half and hour (the amount of swiss chard may seem excesive but remember it will shrink considerably in the cooking process, more is better than less). While the potaje simmers prepare the final ingredient which is used as a garnish for the final dish. Boil 3 eggs and when cool remove the shells. Then place them in a small dish and crush them with a fork until all 3 are crumbly. When the Potaje has thikened and is fully cooked serve in soup bowls and sprinkle the crushed boiled eggs on top ( I also like to add some fresly grated cheese, but this is optional). For those of you who are vegetarian or whish not to add meat, simply leave out the chorizo.
And hey presto, you have a delicious warming winter stew. From the heart of Spain. Enjoy!