Bean and chorizo stew

In the words of House Stark: “Winter is Coming”. This is my favourite time of year- I know it’s a bit sad when the nights begin to draw in earlier each day, and getting out of bed for work when it’s cold and dark is a pain in the arse. However, I like getting all cosy at home in a big jumper and eating something suitably stodgy. We’re also at that nice stage at the moment where the weather hasn’t turned properly cold yet and the autumn sun is making everything look lovely (listen to me- what an old romantic I am).

Autumn cooking is my kind of cooking- oozy risottos, chutneys and jellies made from foraged ingredients or gluts of fruit shared by friends and colleagues, warming curries and comforting casseroles and stews. I’ve been enjoying all the autumnal blog posts that have been popping up in my feed recently- lots of pumpkin and squash recipes and good hearty dishes to stick to the ribs.

My slow cooker tends to see a lot more action over the autumn and winter months, and this is one of my favourite slow cooker recipes. It’s cheap, nutritious and tasty. This recipe serves four (or two with some portions left over for the freezer or for lunch the next day).

Ingredients

  • About 125g chorizo, cut into small half moons/ chunks
  • About 250g of mixed dried beans (I usually use a mixture of red kidney, cannellini, haricot, black turtle, pinto, adzuki and mung beans and chickpeas)
  • An onion, halved and chopped into half moons
  • 2 sticks of celery, washed and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoonful flour
  • A generous glug of red wine
  • A tin of chopped tomatoes
  • About a tablespoonful of thyme (use fresh if you happen to have some, but dried is fine)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled
  • 200ml water
  • A couple of heaped tablespooonfuls of pearl barley
  • A carrot, scrubbed or peeled and then diced

Soak the dried beans overnight or for at least 8 hours in plenty of water with a bit of bicarbonate of soda added to it. When they’re soaked, drain them well and add to a pan with enough water to cover. Bring them to the boil, then let them simmer with the lid on for 10-15 minutes. Drain and set aside. (Don’t be tempted to miss out this step- The beans need to be soaked and boiled in order to get rid of toxins in their skins that can apparently cause severe stomach cramps.)

Add the chorizo, onion and celery to a pan and fry until the onion is looking translucent but not brown. Some fat should come out of the chorizo but add a bit of olive oil if the onion and celery need it to fry in. Add the garlic and fry for a minute or so. Add the flour and mix in until all the flour is coated with oil. Turn up the heat, add the red wine and simmer for a minute or so, stirring to mix everything together. Mix in the chopped tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, stock cube and water, then add the drained beans, pearl barley and carrot.

Put the whole lot into a slow cooker and cook on high for about 4-6 hours, adding water if it looks dry.

Eat with some nice crusty bread for dippage.

For the vegetarian version, leave out the chorizo and add a teaspoon of smoked paprika instead.

Bank Holiday blowout food

This weekend was the last Bank Holiday weekend before Christmas, and I managed to wangle a shift off from work to enable me to enjoy the whole three days off. In classic British Bank Holiday fashion, the weather forecast was for rain all weekend. “There goes my nice long bike ride in the sun,” I thought. However, yesterday was lovely and sunny and while we didn’t cycle the longer route I’d originally planned, we did have a nice cycle around the park in the sunshine (sitting down to enjoy a cheeky Calippo under a tree along the way). As I’d thought the weather was going to be rubbish all weekend, I was feeling a bit indulgent and planned a menu of tasty treats for our three days off together.

We started off on Saturday with a nice lay in (interrupted by needing to answer the door, bleary eyed and Russell Brand-haired, to the postman to take delivery of some packages from Amazon). We then enjoyed a pot of coffee and some pain au chocolat while still in our dressing gowns, watching re-runs of Time Team on the telly. Lovely. I won’t bore you with this level of detail about the rest of the weekend but it’s worth mentioning how much I appreciate not having to set an alarm and having a home filled with the smell of fresh coffee first thing in the morning.

I decided to make cream teas on Saturday, the original plan being to cycle to the park and enjoy them in the sun. As it was pissing down with rain, we enjoyed them in the comfort of our own home instead. The scone recipe I used was this one (don’t do what I did and absent-mindedly use plain flour instead of self-raising- I had to chuck out the first batch and start again when I realised they weren’t rising in the oven). We had our usual debate about whether to put the jam on first or the clotted cream- I always put my cream on first with the strawberry jam on top because I think it’s more aesthetically pleasing (which is the Devon way of doing it). However, Owen spent a large portion of his childhood and teens in Cornwall, and he and his mum will argue until they’re blue in the face that the Cornish way (jam first, cream on top) is the only correct way to serve a cream tea.

Cream teas (the Devon way). I got a bit carried away and decided to put them on my extra chintzy bone china plates.

Yesterday’s breakfast was pancakes with bacon and maple syrup- one of my favourite weekend breakfasts when I can be bothered to make it. I use the following ingredients for the two of us, adjusted from this Jamie Oliver recipe.

  • 2 eggs
  • 80g plain flour
  • 95ml milk
  • Half a teaspoon of baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

Breakfast pancakes with bacon and maple syrup.

Owen did a roast for dinner last night. I’m not very good at roasts, but I do always contribute by making the stuffing balls (chopped onion, grated apple, sage and breadcrumbs bound with an egg) and Yorkshire puds. A roast is one of those meals, like a full English breakfast, which always tastes that much better when someone else cooks it for you. Owen happens to be very good at making a roast dinner (his roast potatoes in particular are excellent), which works out well for me…

Owen’s yummy roast potatoes.

I made tomato soup for lunch today using this Felicity Cloake recipe (which is my standard ‘go to’ tomato soup recipe- the balsamic vinegar lifts the flavours perfectly). I quite often make soup for lunch on a weekend, especially if the weather’s a bit miserable- I find it quite comforting with a nice bit of crusty bread for dippage.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of these before they went in the oven- I just thought they looked pretty…

Tomato soup

One of the aforementioned Amazon deliveries was Lorraine Pascale’s latest book, which provided the inspiration for tonight’s dinner- prawn linguine with chorizo and cabernet tomato sauce (the recipe wasn’t on her usual BBC page so the link is to the Mail Online- sorry about that). The only adjustments I made were to use one tin of tomatoes instead of two and enough linguine for two people instead of four. There are loads of recipes in this book that I want to try, so you’ll no doubt be hearing more about them soon…

Lorraine Pascale’s prawn linguine with chorizo and cabernet tomato sauce

So, we’re back to work tomorrow. After all this culinary naughtiness (I’ve not even mentioned the Tesco’s jumbo chocolate croissants and copious amounts of beer and wine we washed everything down with until now), I think I’ll need to get on the exercise bike and cook a few healthy meals this week to restore the balance…