Wednesday, 6 February 2013

"Cheap! Cheap!": Spanish chicken with peppers and butterbeans

In one of Adrian Plass's brilliant satirical books (I think it's The Theatrical Tapes of Leonard Thynn - if you're a churchy type with a penchant for amdram it's a MUST READ), there's an account of how the Church Treasurer stamps his authority on every flamboyant idea with his cry of 'cheap! cheap! it must be cheap!', with Adrian replying, 'Oh do shut up Richard, you're beginning to sound like a chicken.' This ridiculously silly sense of humour appeals to me and usually makes me giggle when standing in the supermarket aisle, faced with the choice between organic (pricey but moral) and standard (cheap but immoral) chicken.

I think the poor boy stacking the shelves at Sainsburys yesterday probably needed counselling after watching a woman looking intently at various poultry products, shoulders gently shaking and various snorting noises emerging from her direction. Ok, so maybe I'm the one with the problem... but after consulting my worried-looking wallet and the veg already in the fridge, here's what we cooked in George's little kitchen last night.

Spanish chicken with peppers and butterbeans

I always worry when attributing a name of a country to a dish, but as this contains chorizo, peppers and a lot of pimenton, I'm hoping I'm not too far off the mark. There's no chili in this recipe because I used my own homemade chili oil (see this blog for the story) but I think it works with a bit of a bite, so add one finely chopped chili if using normal olive oil.

1. In a nice big saucepan fry up two medium-sized chopped onions, four crushed cloves of garlic and some chopped chorizo in a generous glug of chili oil. 
2. Add two sliced peppers - I used a red and a yellow, with a heaped teaspoon of sweet pimenton, half a tsp cumin seeds and lots of seasoning, and continue cooking for a couple of minutes.
3. Add six filleted chicken thighs. When they are browned and covered in the spices, throw in 8 chopped tomatoes and a can of butter beans. Season with a pinch of sugar - I prefer using fresh tomatoes so always add a bit of sugar - but you could use a tin of tomatoes instead. 
4. Top up with some boiling water so that everything is covered, add in a bay leaf, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
5. 5 minutes before serving, add some chopped greens and herbs - I used broccoli, savoy cabbage and parsley because it's what I had - and season to taste. 

There's another version of this dish which I make if I have more time and people over, which uses bone-in chicken thighs, pre-roasted peppers and cooking in the oven rather than on the hob. This does give more flavour to the entire dish and feeds six people, so I would recommend doing that if you can - but it needs cooking for an hour and a half in the oven, and the greens served on the side. 

However, this made a really tasty mid-week dinner for two people and a hungry giraffe with leftovers for lunch, which I've just scoffed at my desk. All I need now is a large glug of Pacharan to finish it off...

Friday, 1 February 2013

A stew in 30 minutes: Celeriac, bacon and beans with pork

I struggled with what I should call this dish. The word 'stew' usually brings up memories of Mum sticking something in the oven before church, and getting it out when arriving home (cue chorus of "oh no, not STEW again..." - we were ungrateful little sods.) I also think it's one of those things you 'grow into', like eating olives, drinking red wine and liking blue cheese. Now I'm old and boring, I actually find a stew rather comforting and filling in these wintery times, but not so easy to achieve on a work night if one wants to eat before bedtime, especially when you're not home until 7pm...

Until now. Excitingly, I have discovered a way of making a stew which only taken 30 minutes. And, unlike Jamie Oliver's '30 minute meals', where you need a sous chef to have prepared and chopped everything beforehand plus a shiny TV kitchen and cameras to make it look amazing, this actually only did take 30 minutes, from start to finish. So there.

Ok, so it's slightly cheating to pan-fry the pork at the end, but to be honest you don't even need it - it's only because George gets dead grumpy if he doesn't have a nice bit of meat in his dinner. The real trick here is to replace potatoes with celeriac (which cooks quickly), fry everything with bacon to give the stew the earthy taste associated with slow-cooked meat, and use the water from the tinned kidney beans plus chopped fresh tomatoes to thicken the sauce. So, here goes:

Celeriac, bacon and bean stew with pan-fried pork

Pig vs Savoy Cabbage... The pig won the fight

This recipe will serve 4 people, or 2 hungry people with leftovers for lunch. It's got quite a chili kick to it so if you would rather, leave the chili out!

1. Roughly chop 1 onion, 4 rashers of bacon, 2 cloves of garlic and a chili, and saute in olive oil for 3 minutes with a tsp each of cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. 
2. Chop a celeriac into bite-sized pieces. Add to the mixture and cook for another 3 minutes.
3. Chop 3 big tomatoes and add to the mixture. Give them a minute to warm up, and then add a tin of kidney beans plus the water they are in.
4. Add 1/2 a litre of hot water, season generously and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don't worry if it looks a bit too watery, you'll need it for the cabbage at the end.
5. Pan-fry (or grill if you're being healthy) 1 pork chop per person - it should take around 5 minutes on each side. Pork is cooked when it's white and the juice runs clear. I wasn't being healthy so seasoned liberally and pan-fried mine in butter on a medium heat, with a stick of fresh rosemary thrown in. The rosemary infuses into the butter so that when you turn the chops over, they are cooking in herby butter. YUM.
6. Chop half a savoy cabbage into thin strips and add to the stew for the final 5 minutes.

I served mine with the pork cut into strips and piled on top - at 7.30pm, which meant time to watch a whole episode of Midsomer Murders before going to bed with a cup of tea. Old and boring? Never...