Aside its great flavor, and easy method, the great benefit of Spanish style cod with chickpeas and peppers is that the basic veggie stew the fish sits on can be made ahead of time, even frozen, to use as needed.
Pat fish dry and rub with ground cumin. Place in a large bowl with ½ of the lemon juice. Mix well and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Dissolve the saffron threads in ¼ cup boiling water, set aside
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds let them sizzle for a few minutes until they become fragrant, then add the garlic and cook until it starts to color. Add the onions, peppers and bay leaves. Sauté until they start to soften about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, or until the vegetables are soft, and the onions are a pale gold.
Turn up the heat to medium-high. Sprinkle the vegetables with the smoked paprika and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and diluted saffron. Cook until the tomatoes have lost most of their liquid. Add the chickpeas and cook until heated through, about 5-8 minutes. You can prepare the dish ahead of time up to this point.
Lay the fish on top of the vegetables. Cover. Bring to a boil then cook at a simmer for 5 minutes. Add the remaining lemon juice. Cook 2 minutes more, turn off the heat and leave fish to steam for 5-10 minutes. Serve immediately.
When buying the cod filet, ask the fishmonger to cut your fish from the thicker head end of the fillet so that it is of even thickness and cooks at the same speed. He can also slice it for you
The flavor of smoked paprika is a major element of this dish. Don’t substitute any other kind.
Saffron has to be hand harvested and as a result, both the threads and powder are very expensive. It gives wonderful flavor to fish stews like this one, so if you can spring for it, do so, knowing that a little goes a long way.