Saturday, 10 May 2014

Pisto 'bilbaina'

Pisto 'bilbaina'

It's the second week in a row that I post a fully vegetarian dish, which is a mere coincidence. I am not starting a pre-bikini menu in the least (although I have to admit to stepping up on the fitness front, amidst much whining - which is all part of the fun...). We'll be back to eating little animals next week, not to worry, and also be a bit more experimental

But today I bring you a recipe from the region in Spain I come from (the Basque country), it even carries in the name my city, Bilbao. Which as any bilbaĆ­no will tell you is the best city in the world ('city-pride', as opposed to any dark nationalistic tendencies, is part of our character, taken half seriously, half self-mockingly) 

In terms of actual ingredients today's recipe resembles the French ratatouille, save for the egg (in pisto, not in ratatouille) and the herbs (in ratatouille, not in pisto). From the little research I've been doing the ratatouille is a bit more elaborate in the cooking process, with pisto a la bilbaina we follow the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid). And it is a very, very, very easy dish indeed

Only nag about this recipe is that the time spent peeling and chopping is considerable, so do not start prepping when hungry or you'll plunder half your pantry by the time you're done (I am speaking from experience here, people...)

Overall prep & cook time: 55 minutes

Ingredients for  2 people / 2 portions

  • 2 medium sized courgettes ('zucchini')
  • 5 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 large green pepper
  • (1 small aubergine - optional, I had it lying around and used it)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • salt, pepper, olive oil

Main ingredients



1. There is no way around this, you will spend a good 20 - 25 minutes chopping and peeling, more if you are less focused and start dancing around the kitchen like I usually do

2. Peel the courgettes first, which have a relatively thin skin and it can be easily removed with a potato peeler. I am a big advocate of cooking vegetables with their skin on, because it is where most nutrients are kept, but I find the skin of courgettes adds a tad bitterness today and that's the reason I remove it (for info: ratatouille does not remove the skin)

Chop them in fairly thin slices and those again roughly into smaller pieces

3. Chop the green pepper, tomatoes, onion and garlic in small pieces

4. For the aubergine ('eggplant' - really!?), do not bother peeling the skin off (which would be quite a herculean task, since the meat is quite stubbornly attached to the skin) and just slice them in 2-3 mm slices


5. Pour 6 tablespoons olive oil into a large frying pan and turn the heat up till oil is hot (but no smoke is emanating from it!)

6. Place courgettes, aubergine and pepper into the pan and lower the heat slightly

The 'hard' veggies

As always, the reason for not chucking everything in at once is the different hardness / texture of the vegetables. In this case:

- courgettes need to soften and become all gooey and creamy - it is the base of the recipe. This happens through a lengthy period of heating, much like in my Spanish Omelette recipe

- same goes for the aubergine...

- for peppers: they are quite hard in themselves, so that's why they go in first

7. About 7 -8 minutes in you will see that the vegetables have reduced in volume substantially (about 1/3 of original) and started softening. Adjust the heat in the pan to account for this (so it doesn't burn) and keep stirring

At this point add the tomatoes and the onions. Many apologies for the fact that I thought I had taken a picture of the way this looks, for reference, but somehow I must have thought I pressed the button without actually doing so...

8. Keep stirring over a medium heat for at least additional 10 - 12 minutes . Tomatoes and onions will start releasing their juices and everything will become nice and soggy... Lower the heat when you see

Add the salt now, rather than at the beginning of the cooking process, so you can actually control the amount of salt once the dish is closer to its final 'size'. And a generous pinch of pepper for a little kick

9. After those 12 minutes, add the chopped garlic

Veggies, all in

10. Stir for 2 - 3 minutes breathing the mix of the garlic and the pepper, which I wish I could convey via picture...

11. Beat up the two eggs and pour them slowly into the pan, circling all around it so it is soaked in the egg mixture

To avoid any doubts, bowl is not levitating, I am holding it

12. You can turn off the heat now completely because the pan (and its contents) are hot enough for the egg to set. You want something, for the lack of a better word, slimy in consistence, not a fully cooked egg as you'd have in an omelette

So, to achieve this -

Keep stirring!

13. You can serve literally half a minute later, it doesn't need more