Spanish Stew

Chillier weather is setting in so we need something warming in our tummies. Today I bring you one of my favourite recipes of all time, bastardised from a recipe by the very lovely Nigella Lawson. It’s from ‘How to Eat’, a gloriously useful number that has earned its stripes and survived a serious culling of cookbooks during a decluttering frenzy.

This Spanish stew is a meal that I make it at home and also in the motorhome where cheffing conditions are a little more restricted. It’s devillishly easy to knock up. Even so there’s just a few things that can go wrong that can cause the dish to turn into a swampy mess. I’m talking from experience. This particular domestic goddess sometimes has a kitchen nightmare.

Take a good sized pan and fry a chopped onion in olive oil. When that’s softened add a clove or two of crushed garlic. Then add rounds of chorizo sausage, about a pound of it, cut to about the thickness of a pound coin. It’s the uncooked variety that you need not the cooked one. I’m a bit of a sucker for a bit of artisan chacuterie and often impulse buy them from the butchers because they look so wonderful.

Nigella then instructs you to add sherry and a bayleaf. I hardly ever have these in the house so I make do with vaguely similar ingredients. A good glug of brandy and a sprinkle of mixed herbs did nicely last time. Then you add thick slices of waxy potatoes. The original recipe suggests a kilo but I tend to use less and up the meat:veg ratio. Don’t substitute floury spuds by mistake. I did that once and the stew turned to mush. Season with salt and pepper and top the whole lot with water, just enough to cover everything. By now it all looks like a watery mess. There will be globules of orange fat floating on top but don’t panic!

In the original recipe the dish gets transferred to the oven but I don’t bother with that. I keep it simmering on the stove top for a good hour or so. WITH THE LID OFF! This is important otherwise you really will end up with grumpy glares from the hungry brood around the supper table. The mixture needs to reduce over time and the evaporation process turns it into an unctious delight. Trust me! After about thirty minutes I add some frozen green beans and peas, again my own twist. My boys need their five a day from somewhere.

One day, I’ll have supplies of fresh herbs in the garden so I’ll be able to add the chopped coriander that Nigella suggests. But that is just a pipe dream at the moment and I nearly always forget to buy it at the supermarket. The serving suggestion in the book calls for bread and a salad. Lovely if you want to rustle this up but, with the added veg, it’s more than adequate as a one pot meal.

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