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Have I got stews for you

stews-for-you

This morning I woke feeling cold and in no mood to get out of bed on account of it. Ordinarily not a good start to the day  but to me it means the seasons are on the turn so I can pack away my salad spinner and dig out my favourite casserole dish and that can only be a good thing.

I’ve always preferred cold weather food to hot, not because it’s intrinsically better but because it’s just so much more comforting. I love the simplicity of good summer food and enjoy cooking it enormously but lets face it you’d have to go a long way to beat the mouthwatering anticipation of a slow cooked casserole or stew. My taste for all things slow cooked and fragrant has come a long way since my school days however, when stew was something to be feared and generally avoided in the school canteen. Lord only knows what crimes against the meat industry were committed to create something you were still trying pick out of your teeth by the time the bell rang for home time.

 

I would have probably sold my granny for a turkey twizzler in those days. As is often the case in my cooking, some of my most successful culinary experiments have been influenced by foreign travel. This white bean, chorizo and pork stew has definite overtones of similar dishes I ate on a trip to Spain. The sweet and smokey flavours are so warm and comforting that it is often the thing I want to make when the central heating goes on for the first time in six months.

The best slow cooked dishes yield succulent meat which melts in the mouth and the ways of ensuring this this are numerous. Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall dedicates an astounding 17 pages to the theory of slow cooking in his brilliant ‘Meat’ book but the gist of it is this: Good stews need plenty of time, gentle cooking and to be made from cuts of meat with a decent amount of fat and connective tissue. The good news on the stewing front is that the best meat for the job is almost always the cheapest cut. As such a patient and gentle approach is required  if you have an electric slow cooker collecting dust in the cupboard under the stairs now is the perfect time to dig it out – they’re great for this kind of cooking and if you pop it on before you go out for work you will be greeted by the most heavenly smell upon your return. When it comes to side dishes for stews I tend to turn my back on tradition and generally leave the potato masher in the drawer until I have some really good sausages to cook. The pork and chiorizo stew is so much a meal in itself I would serve not much more than a good peppery salad properly dressed. Of course if you must have starch I would still favour steamed rice over mash but that’s by the by – It’s your comfort food so do as your taste buds demand.

 

Pork, White Bean and Chorizo Stew – Serves 8

As with most stews and casseroles this is best made the day before you plan to eat it and gently heated through to serve. It’s also important to use cooking chorizo not the ready to eat kind.

Ingredients:

 

1 kg organic pork shoulder cut into cubes

2 cooking chorizo sausages sliced into thick discs

150 gms dried haricot beans soaked over night

2 large onions sliced

3 cloves garlic – crushed

500 ml chicken stock

200 ml fino sherry

2 tablespoons tomato puree

Chopped flat leaf parsley or coriander to serve

 

Method:

 

First of all get the haricot beans on. Place the drained and rinsed beans in a pot and cover with plenty of water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender. How long this takes will depend on how fresh they are but count on at least 30 minutes. When cooked, drain and set aside. Heat a heavy based casserole on the hob and add the chorizo. Fry until browned and remove.

Next, brown the pork in the oil that the chorizo has left behind. Do this in batches and when nice and coloured remove and set aside.

Again in the same oil, fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the tomato puree and allow to fry for a few minutes, add the sherry and return the pork and chorizo to the pan stir to mix all the ingredients together and add the stock.

Bring the stew to a gentle simmer and cook as gently as your hob will permit for 2 hours. Add the beans and cook for a further 45 minutes. Add the chopped herbs just before serving.

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