So, the autumn is setting in. The days are sunny and clear, but there’s a chill in the air and the leaves are beginning to turn. At risk of sounding like Mr Autumn Man, I enjoy this change in the weather, and always look forward to the new cooking possibilities; stews, mushrooms, hearty, creamy sauces and rich, thick, buttery mashed potatoes. Much as I love light, summery food, there’s no pleasure quite like a warming autumnal plate.
When I first began to cook, I was enamoured with a recipe for chickpea and chorizo stew by Nigel Slater that I found in the paper. Its deep, smoky paprika flavours gave the end product a beautiful rustic air that belied the lack of skill or effort involved in putting it together, and that was exactly the kind of encouragement that a beginner cook needed to experiment a little more confidently.
My recipe takes its cues from that one, but uses fresh pork alongside the chorizo and white beans in the place of the chickpeas. At the end of the day though, by and large, a stew is a stew, so feel free to substitute any or all of the ingredients listed below for anything else that seems suitable. Long, slow braises, forgiving as they are, are the perfect ground for experimentation in the kitchen.
You will need:
- A couple of tablespoons of Olive Oil (not extra virgin)
- 500g 1″ diced pork, from a fatty cut like shoulder, belly or rib
- 200g Chorizo sausage (I used a cooking variety, but next time, I’ll probably use the cured, ready-to-eat type)
- A small leek, white part thinly sliced (save the green ends for stock)
- A large onion, thinly sliced (or two medium ones)
- 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- A small glass of Madeira or Sherry (or indeed, wine of any colour)
- A generous teaspoon of smoked paprika (sweet or hot, your choice)
- A tin of tomatoes
- 400ml of stock
- A couple of bay leaves
- A can of cannellini beans
- a small bunch of parsley
Heat a large saucepan over a high heat, and add a tablespoon of the oil til shimmering. Brown the pork in batches, turning it only when it comes away from the surface of the pan readily (this is a good rule to follow with the browning of meat). Meanwhile, slice the chorizo into 1cm thick rounds, put the browned pork to a plate on the side, and brown those in the pan too, reserving them to the pork plate when done. Pour the Madeira into the pan and let it bubble for a minute, scraping any caramelised bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then pour it out into a bowl or cup, wiping the pan clean after.
Reduce the heat to low, add the second tablespoon of oil, and throw in your chopped leek, onion and garlic. Give them a stir, and leave them pretty much alone, bar the odd stir, for a minimum of twenty minutes, til a wooden spoon can push through a slice of onion with absolutely no resistance.
Stir in the paprika, and let it cook for about a minute. By this stage, the smells wafting up should be utterly delicious.
Throw in the browned meat and the madeira, along with the tomatoes and enough stock to just cover it all. Bring to a lively boil, add the bay leaves and a little salt and pepper, half cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and leave for a good 90 minutes to simmer, giving it the occasional stir.
30 minutes before the end, drain the beans and stir them in.
Before serving, trim any tough stalks from the parsley, chop it very finely. and add it to the stew.
Serve in deep bowls with crusty white bread (make your own if you have time!) and revel in the autumn.
This, like all stews, is pretty much infinitely customisable. Try using beef chuck, lamb, chicken thighs and drumsticks or aubergine. In the place of cannellini beans, use butter beans, chickpeas, lentils, or any mixture of pulses. Instead of tomatoes, use wine, more stock, thicken with a roux or add some cream at the end. Experiment with herbs, adding hard herbs like rosemary, thyme or chervil to the onion base, and adding softer herbs at the end before serving. Really, the possibilities are endless.