Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Night at Home

We haven't eaten out in quite a few weeks. We've talked about it, but middle child has a whooping kind of cough, and although vaccinated against just such a situation, our GP tells us not to be surprised. "It's OK", he says. "It just a mild variation from the standard", implying it's the medical equivalent of one of the more dull Bach cantatas. Oh.. that's alright then. She's only got one of the four diseases she's not supposed to be able to get, but I'll accept that this might be ok....

So, as I'm not keen on leaving the house, tonight I offer two courses cooked at home.

Asparagi di Campo con Acciughe e Limone

This is, without any pause for thought, the best asparagus dish this side of something that's a long way away. It's gutsy and earthy, but still manages to emphasizes asparagusness, which is important for something that's ultimately a vegetable. The original recipe came from the book "Verdura: Vegetables Italian Style" by Viana La Place, but I've modded it over time and with considerable love and respect. It contains:
  • Asparagus
  • Anchovies
  • Parsley
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon (Lime)
  • Garlic
Take a shirtload of asparagus - you know how much you like, but at least 4 or 5 stems per person. Steam or cook in water until *just* tender. Drain in a colander and refresh in cold water. Stop it cooking and keep it green.

A big slug of olive oil now goes into the dry pot the asparagus was cooked in... Once it's warm, drop in some finely chopped anchovies - at least two per person, and a finely chopped clove of garlic (one is enough). Let this gently frazzle for a few minutes. Add the grated rind of a lemon and the asparagus.

Toss the asparagus to make sure it's covered in the oil/anchovy/garlic/parsley/lemon/Sex God mix, splash on some lemon juice and serve. It's earthy, dirty, sexy and asparagussy...

Chicken, Chorizo and Paprika Stuff Hopkinsii

It would be jolly to claim that this is a classic Spanish dish that was passed to me from a Great Second Uncle's Third Aunt's Daughter's Neighbour, but, truth be told, I made this up and while it's still evolving, it's still damn good. It's part casserole, part soup, rich with garlic, sausage and paprika. For four, we used:
  • about 500g/a pound of chicken thighs, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • two chorizos (the Spanish sort, ie dry like salamis, not fresh like sausages)
  • three decent sized potatoes
  • two red capsicums/bell peppers
  • a brown onion or two
  • three(ish) cloves of garlic
  • smoked paprika
  • cumin
  • some saffron threads (optional, but should be dropped in a scant cup of boiling water)
  • 500ml/two cups of chicken stock
  • bay leaves
  • salt, pepper

Chop the onions coarsely into strips and gently saute in a heavy casserole. Add the finely chopped garlic and capsicums after a couple of minutes, then the chorizos, which have been chopped into bite-sized pieces. Fry for a bit until the smell forces you to taste a bit of sausage. Hmmmmm....... By this point you should be hungry.

Add a tablespoon or so of smoked paprika and a teaspoon of cumin and gently fry for a few moments. Add the chicken and stir-fry a bit longer. Once the chicken is coated with spices and coloured, add the stock, two bay leaves and the chopped potatoes, which have been chopped into large bite-sized chunks (and peeled, if you like), and the saffron with its water. Salt (a bit) and lots of pepper...
Simmer on a low heat (*just* bubbling) for about 35-40 minutes. Test the potato, and when it's soft, crush a few bits if you like (I do) to thicken the liquid.

Serve in bowls, sprinkle with a small handful of roughly chopped parsely (don't skimp on the parsely - this is important!) and pour yourself a glass of cheerful and assertive vin rouge. "Huzzah", he said, through wetted and slightly oiled lips. Nom nom nom......

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