‘Migas’ are a traditional Portuguese and Spanish dish that was created by shepherds who, as they went to the fields to look after their flock, had little more than stale bread and wild garlic to cook with. The story goes that the tradition stands and that they still cook the dish today.
This is so traditional Portuguese/Spanish, even the sterner connaisseur of Iberian foods would agree. And it’s proper peasant food! Is there anything more authentic? As usual, garlic and olive oil feature abundantly and it is surprisingly simple to make.
The actual ‘migas’ part are the breadcrumbs (the word “migas” comes from the Spanish word “migajas”, meaning breadcrumbs), which are usually fried in olive oil with garlic. But there are lots of ingredients that are added to make many different recipes. For example in Alentejo (southern region of Portugal) where the dish is famous, migas are always cooked with pork meat. In Andaluzia in Spain migas are cooked with fennel and a kind of pancetta. There are even recipes for sweet migas. This means you can be creative and that you know you will have a migas dish with a wide variety of ingredients. Take a peek at your food cupboard and I bet you can make it right now.
If you can get hold of Portuguese cornbread you are in for a winner, but any type of bread will do and if it’s 2 or 3 days old then even better. I went for a lovely honey and sunflower seeds loaf as I wanted a touch of sweetness and the seeds also add texture. And I didn’t have any Portuguese cornbread 🙁
I assume sourdough will work well too but as I said, don’t let this be an issue and just use any bread you have laying around at home. What you want is something to suck that garlicky oil and make a moist base for the dish.
It is often the case that migas are cooked with some kind of cabbage (e.g. kale) and potentially a bean of some sort. In this recipe I chose chickpeas just because I love them. I also added chorizo for a bit of smoky zing (yes, because I love chorizo too and many Iberian regions use it in migas dishes) and sunflower seeds for crunch. To top it all up I went for a southern influence and sprinkled some shopped coriander. As for the cabbage I didn’t use kale, I went for English Sweetheart, which was sleeping in my fridge.
In this recipe I cooked the cabbage first separately before adding to the rest of the ingredients because they take less time to cook and I wanted the cabbage soft. I think if you add the cabbage raw to the breadcrumbs mix and cook it for the time it takes to complete the dish, it will dominate in terms of crunchiness and flavour. Remember, the breadcrumbs are the star.
So all you need is stale bread, garlic and oil. Plus a leafy brassica. And a bit of interest with a bean or pulse of some sort, some nuts and herbs and some salty cured meat (chorizo, pancetta, bacon) unless you want to keep it vegetarian. I bet it will be delicious with a fried egg on top (I would eat anything with a fried egg on top, to be honest).
It really is simple to make and you can put it together with lots of combinations of ingredients. In the end you get a delicious side dish with lots of honesty. I love honest food and migas are just that!