Serves 4–6

salt cod skin (see below)

150 g (5 oz) dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked overnight in cold water

150 g (5 oz) dried white beans, soaked overnight in cold water

1 garlic bulb, cloves peeled

1 bay leaf

1 small leek, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sweet smoked pimentón de la Vera

sea salt and freshly ground

black pepper

4 eggs

2 large handfuls of spinach

For the meatballs

250 g (9 oz) salt cod, soaked for 24–48 hours in cold water, drained and skin removed and reserved

250 g (9 oz) stale bread, crusts removed

150–200 ml (5–7 fl oz/.–. cup) whole (full-fat) milk

large sprig of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

freshly ground black pepper

olive oil, for frying.

Put the salt cod skin into a large saucepan with the chickpeas and white beans. Add all but 3 of the garlic cloves, the bay leaf, leek and 1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) cold water. Bring to a boil then simmer gently for 1. hours, adding 750 ml (25. fl oz/3 cups) more water about halfway through, until the beans and chickpeas are tender. Remove and discard the fish skin, bay leaf, garlic and leek.

Pour the oil into a frying pan over a medium heat and gently cook the onion and pimentón for 10 minutes, until softened. In a small food processor or with a hand blender, whizz the onion and a little of the stock until smooth. Transfer this mixture to the saucepan and season well.

Cook the eggs in boiling water for 6–8 minutes. Run under water to cool, then peel and quarter. To make the meatballs, soak the bread in the milk for 2 minutes, until soft. Scoop into a large bowl. Crumble the salt cod over the bread and mix until incorporated. Finely chop the remaining garlic cloves and add to the bowl with the parsley, season with pepper and mix well. Shape into 18–20 ping-pong-sized balls.

Heat a 4 cm (2. in) depth of oil in a frying pan to 180C (350F) – or until a cube of bread browns in about 20 seconds – and fry the balls until golden all over, 2–3 minutes. Once they are all browned, add them to the saucepan of chickpeas and beans with the spinach and simmer for 5–10 minutes.

Spoon the soup into individual bowls and top with the egg quarters and plenty of cracked black pepper before serving.

Publisher: Hardie Grant

Photography: Emma Lee