chicken & chorizo stew

Chicken and chorizo stew.
Chicken and chorizo stew.

Happy New Year everybody!

I spent the holiday break in Australia and although friends here warned me that it was freezing, it was a shock to step off the plane and discover just what they meant. For London is frosty beyond memory; it’s really really cold. It’s the kind of chill you’re not even sure how to handle, because doing anything other than the bare minimum involves a trip outside, which means getting dressed, and that requires a superhuman act of bravery.

Fortunately, there’s winter food to console us during the colder months, and we seek to ward off the chill with steaming bowls of something comforting. At this time of year, it’s all about cooking for warmth and ease – nothing fussy or fancy, just simple good food that invokes the memory of sunshine.

The ultimate winter dinner.
The ultimate winter dinner.

This stew combines aromatic chorizo with the gentle heat of chilli and the comforting graininess of butter beans. It’s perfect for nights like these!

Chicken and chorizo stew
6 chicken thighs
100g chorizo
1 x 400g tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g tin tomatoes
2 carrots, sliced
1 capsicum, sliced
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tsp chilli flakes
250ml chicken or vegetable stock
Flour, salt, pepper and mixed herbs to coat the chicken

De-skin the chorizo and pull it into pieces. Fry gently in a non-stick pan and remove to a large baking dish, keeping the oil in the pan.

Season the flour with salt, pepper and mixed herbs. Coat the chicken in the flour and brown in the chorizo oil. Add the browned chicken to the baking dish.

Prepare the rest of the ingredients and add to the baking dish. Place in a 200 degree oven for 1 hour and serve with sweet potato mash, kale or a crusty loaf of bread.


the hangover brekkie

Minimum fuss. Maximum comfort.
Minimum fuss. Maximum comfort.

Let’s be honest: is there anything better than a drink or two with friends after a difficult week?

I salute those of you going through Dry January, I really do. But it seems like everyone I know is reluctant to accept the fact that the festivities of the Christmas period have passed, and have carried on merrily arranging dinners, drinks, events and celebrations all to be accompanied by vast quantities of wine or colourful cocktails.

And who am I to resist the siren call of the grain and grape?

Of course, nights out on the town don’t come without a cost, and the morning after can be a terrible, penitent affair. The food situation can be particularly tricky, with your stomach behaving like a moody teenager; one day it can rebel at the slightest hint of acid, weird textures, odd smells and adventurous tastes, the next it can protest at bland, comforting foods, beg for caffeine and yearn for oil (I inevitably wake up wanting a burger and fries).

I like this particular hangover brekkie because it manages to be comforting and plain without being boring. Also, I generally have the ingredients sitting in the fridge, which is perfect for when you can’t face the long wander down the street to the shops.

The hangover brekkie
2 slices toast
2 tbsp hummus
Half a chorizo sausage
4 eggs
Salt and pepper
Parsley (optional)

Chop the chorizo into small pieces and place in a dry pan over medium heat. Depending on the size of the slices, it can take around 2-5 minutes to cook. You’ll know they’re done when they turn a brilliant red-gold. Remove and place onto a paper towel.

Crack the eggs into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and beat. Place in the pan over a low heat and cook, dragging the spatula through the middle to scramble them. Now would be a good time to put the toast on as well.

When the eggs begin to look sloppy, add the chorizo back to the pan and cook the eggs through.

Spread the hummus on the toast or serve on the side. Top with the eggs and if you have parsley, it will add a fresh, vibrant crunch.

Last but not least, make yourself a cup of tea and think about what you’ve done, and whether there is any photo evidence you’ll need to take care of once you’re back to full strength.

spanish stew

It's almost time to say goodbye to winter food for another year. Not that that really works in London.
It’s almost time to say goodbye to winter food for another year. Not that that really applies in London.

The other day we noticed that it was still light outside at 3pm. For the first time in months, it seems, you can go outside without gloves and a hat and not think you’re going to die of frostbite. That means the delights of Spring are just around the corner – and I know it seems like an impossibility right now, but in a few short weeks we’ll also be leaving the comforting realms of warm winter food behind.

Chorizo has become a regular feature on the menu of late. Are calorie-counters aghast? They needn’t be. This heavily spiced sausage is so strongly flavoured that you only ever need to use a small amount, and the smokiness will permeate the rest of the dish. Moreover, if you fry it slowly, the fat runs out and you can drain it away before plopping the toothsome morsels into a separate pan.

It also doesn’t hurt that chorizo has a good long fridge life, so you can keep some on hand for emergency stew action on those long, cold winter nights.

The basis for a hearty winter stew.
The basis for a hearty winter stew.

Spanish Stew
200g cooking chorizo (about 4 small links)
2 x 400g cans plum tomatoes
1 x 400g cans butter beans
1 yellow capsicum, sliced
1 red onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon smoked paprika

Skin the chorizo and pull into pieces. You can cut it, but I like the ragged edges of pulled chorizo.

Place the chorizo into a non-stick frypan over a medium heat. When it starts to sizzle, add the onion and garlic.

While that’s cooking away, pour the tomatoes into a saucepan and bring to the boil. When the chorizo is done, drain it and transfer the mixture to the saucepan, adding the rest of the ingredients.

Simmer for twenty minutes and serve with crusty bread – or for a healthier option, go with piles of vegetables like mushrooms, broccoli and kale.

Serves four, 275kcal per serve.

Serve with vegetables or fresh crusty bread,
Serve with vegetables or fresh crusty bread.

spicy chorizo and curly kale

The perfect winter dinner.
The perfect winter dinner.

I hadn’t heard of Nigel Slater before I landed in this fine country, but I’ve really taken to him. There’s something charming and earnest in his boyishly enthusiastic manner that inspires a certain recklessness in the kitchen – and I think we could all do with some of that now and again. ‘Use every last bit,’ he commands from the screen, turning pumpkin skin into crisps and dangerously ripe cherries into a tart. Don’t be afraid to experiment, just trust the flavours, be inventive and it will all work out.

A worthy mantra, especially if you’re living on a budget and your palate has progressed beyond the student days of burgers and pasta.

As soon as I saw curly kale, I knew I wanted to try it. It’s a hardy winter vegetable, a type of cabbage, rich in vitamins and minerals and perfect for the cold weather because you can cook it. No longer need your long, crisp nights be accompanied by an equally chilly salad.

The fantastic thing about curly kale is that when cooked, it takes on a substantial weightiness that can hold its own against meat, whilst also keeping its light, springy form. Like most greens, it doesn’t taste like much – all the better to flavour it with.

I confess I tweaked Nigel’s original recipe a little – I felt it needed just a little more to take on the complexity my stomach associates with a full meal. This is a perfect winter dinner; filling, nutritious and ready to eat in about fifteen minutes.

Spicy chorizo and curly kale
100g cooking chorizo (about 2 links)
100g curly kale, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Half a cup of edamame beans, cooked
Quarter of a cup of peas, frozen
Small handful of almonds (optional)

Remove the chorizo from its skin and pull the links into small pieces. You can chop them, of course, but I rather like the way pulling forms them into ragged sausage balls which then go on to have gloriously browned peaks.

Place the chorizo over medium heat and cook through – it should only take about 3 minutes if your pieces are small. Remove and set on kitchen paper.

Drain the fat and discard, but don’t wipe down the pan – the oil will help you to fry everything else and imbue it with the wonderful flavours of the chorizo. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic slices, followed by the peas and kale.

Fry until the kale starts turning a dark, shiny green, then add the cooked edamame beans and the chorizo back to the pan. Keep over a medium heat until the tough stalks of the kale are cooked through, then season to taste and serve on a large plate with a scattering of almonds.

Cooking with kale. Isn't it good to branch out a little!
Cooking with kale. Isn’t it good to branch out a little!