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Ah, pisto! That simple yet wonderfully delicious dish which pops up on menus all over Spain.

Photo - www.discoveringspanishculture.blogspot.com


It’s made with good, healthy produce and can be served either as an accompaniment or as a main meal with one or two additions. It can even be eaten on its own as a vegetarian meal, served with some hot, buttered toast. It is also used as a pie filling for ‘empanadas’ or ‘empanadillas’, and is delicious served with either a fried or a poached egg on top.

It’s more tomato-heavy than a French ratatouille, although the ingredients are similar, basically onion, peppers, aubergine, courgette and tomatoes. The original version of ‘pisto manchego’ from La Mancha will leave out the onions and the aubergine. Regional variations abound, from the potato tortilla which is made in Murcia with pisto and salt cod to the ‘pisto riojano’, where pork and sausages are added. Some recipes add potatoes to the vegetable stew.

Cataluña has its own version, ‘samfaina’.

Here’s our recipe for pisto from Spain On This Day:
Gently sauté one chopped onion in some olive oil until it begins to take on a bit of colour. Add chopped red or green peppers, or both if you wish, with one or two cloves of chopped garlic. Add a medium sized aubergine, peeled and cut into dice, and stir around for a couple of minutes. Add a sprinkling of paprika if you want at this stage (optional), which also helps to stop the aubergine from soaking up too much oil. Now add a courgette, cut into smallish chunks. The courgette would generally be peeled in Spain, but it’s up to you if you want to leave the skin on.

Photo - www.discoveringspanishculture.blogspot.com

Now is the time to add the tomatoes. If you use fresh, ripe, tomatoes you will need around one kilo. For purists, they should be peeled, seeded and chopped, but an easier approach is to simply cut them across the middle and grate them into a bowl using a cheese grater, taking care with your fingers of course!

A large can of crushed tomatoes can be used as an alternative.
Turn the heat up to medium-high, throw in a bay leaf with some salt and ground pepper, perhaps a pinch of oregano (optional), and stir regularly until the tomatoes have begun to cook, around five minutes. Add about half a teaspoon of sugar. Now turn down the heat, cover with a lid – as the mixture does tend to spatter – and cook for about 15 minutes.

Pisto can be served as an accompaniment to any main dish. Use it as a sauce for pasta if you have made too much, or add to chopped, cooked octopus. It also freezes very well as a ready prepared dish for another day.