Tuesday 3 February 2009
Catalan-style chicken and chorizo casserole
I found this recipe on sausagelinks.co.uk, but their site has been up and down more often than a gigolo’s y-fronts lately, so I thought I’d reproduce it here with my comments and embellishments.
- 8 chicken thighs, skin removed. You could use a half and half mix of thighs and breasts, if you prefer, particularly if your spouse is squeamish about the fat content of thighs compared to breasts. Mind you, the fat content of the thighs is somewhat academic once you get to the next item on the ingredients list….
- 500g fresh, hot chorizo. Look, you need to get this right. This isn’t that horrible dried stuff that they sell thinly sliced in your local supermarket in thin plastic packets. Nor is it the long dried stuff that looks like a red meat horseshoe and has about the same consistency. This is the fresh stuff, which you will find in the fridge at your best local deli, labelled as chorizo picante or “cooking chorizo (spicy)”. And you want the spicy, not the mild, unless you are a total wuss who likes tasteless food. In London, try Brindisa. In Lewes, my good friends David and Eleanor at Say Cheese do a good version, although it is a bit fattier than the Brindisa variety. Cut the chorizo into lengths of about 25-30mm (about an inch or so).
- 2 or 3 slices of smoked bacon, rind removed and finely diced.
- half a bottle of good red wine, maybe a little more. This leaves the other half of the bottle (maybe a little less) for the chef to enjoy. Now you see why I like this recipe.
- 2 onions, finely diced.
- 2 carrots (quite large), finely diced. On the carrot and the onion, take time to make sure that they really are finely diced. Your reward will await you in the next world. If you leave them coarsely chopped, then your punishment will be upon you in this life. Trust me.
- 250g of shallots, peeled but otherwise whole. I think you can increase this quantity a little, if you like. You certainly want 250g peeled weight, not 250g before peeling. And be sure to use the round variety, not eschallion/banana shallots.
- 1 small tin of tomato purée (the supermarkets can’t seem to agree a standard on this – the tins vary between 125g and 150g).
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g) or thereabouts.
- pinch each of dry thyme and oregano (or a little more each of the fresh variety, if you have it in your garden).
- paprika (if you were silly, and didn’t get good quality chorizo).
- oil for frying.
- Put on an apron. What do you mean, that’s only for wusses? Well, take a look at the ingredient list again. Yes, stains from end to end. So, apron on, unless you like stains and think that they improve your rating as a real bona fide chef (to which you can add cuts and burns, I guess).
- Pre-heat the oven to about 150 Celsius. That’s gas mark somewhere-in-the-middle.
- Use a large casserole dish with a snug-fitting lid. Over a medium heat, sweat the chopped onions and carrots in a little oil for a few minutes before adding the chopped bacon. Scoot about the pan for four or five minutes until all nicely softened and perhaps a little browned. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
- Turn up the heat and replenish the oil in the pan. Brown the chicken and chorizo (and I mean brown it, don’t just show it the heat). Do this in batches so that the pan is never chock full.
- Return all the meat to the pan, along with the onion/carrot/bacon mixture. Add the half bottle of wine and simmer vigorously for a minute or two.
- Add the shallots, the herbs, the tinned tomatoes and tomato purée. Simmer for another minute or two, stirring so that it all gets mixed together.
- Taste. It shouldn’t need much seasoning, but this is where you might add your paprika.
- Bung on the tight-fitting lid and throw the whole thing into the oven. Retire to the comfort of your armchair for at least one and a half hours, preferably two hours. The longer you give it, the better.
- Whilst in your armchair, instruct your minions to prepare some good buttery mash and some green beans or some other nice green vegetable. Alternatively, get them to prepare some good quality rice.
- Check it. Does the chicken fall away from the bone easily? Are the shallots turning soft? Then it is done.
Well, you should be nicely warmed up by the time your dinner guests arrive as you will have dealt with the unpleasantness of the left-over half bottle of red. So, I recommend that you continue in a red theme, perhaps with a good tempranillo. Alternatively, try a strong flavoured Belgian beer. Or gin. Whatever is at hand, really.
Wednesday 4 February 2009
End of an innings
Good to hear on TMS that the players in today’s test are wearing black armbands as a mark of respect.
Monday 9 February 2009
links for 2009-02-09
Possibly just the thing for our conservatory roof to replace the existing, malfunctioning and energy-inefficient conventional fairy lights (all 160 bulbs of them!).
Thursday 12 February 2009
links for 2009-02-12
Marketing puff, err, sorry, serious scientific research about the benefits of plants in the office. (Actually, there really are benefits, not just in terms of air quality).
via Gordon. Colour me sceptical. Research has shown that *any* plant will improve air quality in an office and the most recent research has suggested that Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily to you) is the most effective of all. Mind you, I think the research was funded by the Spathiphyllum Growers Association. In general, the benefits extend beyond air quality – a green space is generally a pleasant space. My advice: go for palms and the like because the are generally easy to look after, withstand neglect/abuse and don't mind the low light conditions that often exist in an office.
Sunday 15 February 2009
links for 2009-02-15
Did you know that the EHIC (the fancy plastic replacement for the old E-111) expires after a short period of time? No? Perhaps you ought to check the date on that card in your wallet (or the bottom of the drawer with the passports – wherever you keep it). You might, as I did, get an unpleasant surprise. In any case, you can renew your own card, that of your partner/spouse and those of any dependent children using one easy form at this website.
Sunday 22 February 2009
Breaking a duck, err bone, duck… bone.
We have just taken the opportunity to have a little holiday. Well, that was the plan. I had to go to Angers for an exhibition and took H and T along with me, something we have done for four out of the last five years.
After staying in Angers for a couple of nights and a (very successful) day at the exhibition, we took the car to Saint Malo, via Rennes and Dinan. We got to our hotel and wandered into the Intra Muros, had a nice meal and then, to entertain Tom, clambered up onto the city wall to head back towards the hotel. So far, so good. But it was mightily dark and I decided to carry Tom as we descended the stone steps. Hels stumbled on the last step as we went down. And then I fell down on the same step, heavily. I managed to hold on to Tom and lower him gently to the step. But I had a fair idea that I’d really hurt myself. I could tell this by the tears in my eyes and nausea, not to mention the pain.
We hobbled back to the hotel and went to bed. But, in the morning, it became quite evident that I was in agony. The evidence consisted of me yelping with pain whenever I stood up, and yelping twice as much if I put any weight on my left foot.
With guidance from the hotel receptionist, Hels took me over to the hospital. After a short wait, an x-ray revealed the tiniest chip off a bone. My reward – a French plaster cast with matching crutches and painkillers. My first damaged bone. Bugger.
We changed our homeward travel arrangements and got ourselves on the next ferry from Saint Malo to Portsmouth (we originally planned to travel to Dieppe and then back to Newhaven – but if ever you take that boat, pack a lunch as the food is utter crap). I’m hoping that my insurers will pay for the change of ferry plans and the lost night of accommodation (about four hundred quid in total).
Since then, I’ve seen umpteen medical people and been the centre of much attention. I’ve got to wear the cast for at least ten days before it is swapped for a removable boot. Which means I can’t drive, can’t put weight on it and can’t walk more than a few paces. Which will make life a little difficult, to say the least.
And, to top it all, Tom has chickenpox. Spots. Lots of them. And itchy.
Hels has got her work cut out. She’s pretty amazing.
Tuesday 24 February 2009
On suffering temporary partial disablement
Apparently, I’m suffering "temporary partial disablement". Or so my insurers say (so, hopefully, they will pay up).
As a sufferer, I can report the following:
- it hurts
- one becomes the centre of conversation
- going to the loo becomes a challenge
- climbing stairs becomes even more of a challenge
- going to the loo or climbing stairs on a cross-Channel ferry is even more of a challenge. I’d hate to be a one-legged pirate
- the cat still wants to sit on you
- small children (well, our small child at least) suddenly become remarkably understanding and helpful. It’ll never last
- your bum gets numb from all the sitting around
- it is very easy to get bored or frustrated; or bored AND frustrated
- it hurts to carry a cast about
- you become very reliant on people around you. Thank goodness for Hels
- you tend to blog more frequently
links for 2009-02-24
Tom doesn't seem too bothered by this presenter's disability, although I've caught myself staring at her arm. But our main concern is that she and her new co-presenter (Alex) are a bit drippy and just not as good as Chris and Pui. Mind you, Pui always struck us as a bit grumpy without too much empathy for kids.
Wednesday 25 February 2009
links for 2009-02-25
Many many years ago, I had a mate caled Dave Kurten. Naturally, when we went to a party and met a girl called Annette, hilarity ensued.
Unfortunately, they didn't get it together.
Thursday 26 February 2009
links for 2009-02-26
DG on Twitter. Very very good.
Friday 27 February 2009
How odd. I’ve had a letter today from the hospital in St Malo that treated me last weekend. It is short and to-the-point.
Radiographie de la cheville gauche face et profil et pied gauche face et profil:
Absence de lésion osseuse traumatique radiologiquement décelable sur les incidences réalisées ce jour.
Beg pardon? Now, my grasp of French is rudimentary to say the least (“schoolboy” would be a generous term and possibly an insult to most schoolboy students of the language), but the word “absence” does tend to leap out of the page. Google Translate comes to my aid and tells me that the radiography did not reveal a lesion on the bone. So why exactly am in a cast and on crutches, then?
Clearly, I’ve done a lot of damage to my left foot area. I must have stretched and pulled every muscle, tendon and bit of meaty gristle down there. It swelled up a fair bit (although, by everyone’s admission, not by a massive amount) and was very sore whenever I put weight on it. But have I actually done any damage to the bone? There was much discussion at the local hospital here in Blighty when I rocked up with my cast and my French x-ray transparencies because the damage is far from clear. I think I can see the ghost of the (tiny) chip on the image in the area where my French doctor said it was, but this new letter is signed by a different doctor. Was the original doctor imagining things?
I’m booked into the local fracture clinic for first thing on Wednesday morning. I’m going to ask them to review the evidence and to take a new set of x-rays so we can be sure what has taken place – my guess is that they will want to do that anyway. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I have only damaged muscle and that, with a bit of strapping, rest and physiotherapy, I can be back up and running, or walking at least, as soon as possible.
Saturday 28 February 2009
Geoffrey Smith, RIP.
I remember watching Geoffrey Smith’s World Of Flowers when it was first broadcast, although I can’t have been more than 11 or 12 at the time. It was a stunning series, years ahead of its time. Now we are used to series (often on BBC4) that tackle a subject in depth with lots of footage shot on location around the world and fronted by an expert who is passionate about their subject and gets their message across through sheer force of personality (I’m thinking of people like Jim al-Khalili and Rageh Omaar). That series was a great influence on me, tackling a different genus in each episode and getting across the personality of the plants concerned, the people involved in their introduction and development in cultivation and the places and locations from which they originate.
It would be going too far to say that the programme had a direct influence on my choice of future career (other circumstances in my life had far greater influence), but it was certainly in the background. I hope that they repeat it soon as a tribute – it would be of interest to anyone, not just gardening enthusiasts.
links for 2009-02-28
Rather nice looking self-catering apartment, but looks a little expensive with the current EUR/GBP exchange rate.