I know you hate celery but it’s really good in lots of things like … this week’s chorizo and chickpea stew

February 12, 2010

Apart from beetroot (which most most people come round to when they learn how good it is  roasted) celery is possibly one of the least loved of all the veggies we (very occasionally!!) put in our bags. While it does make good soup (amazing with Cashel Blue toasts) salads and can be braised (in white wine with a Gruyere topping) to very good effect it really prefers to take a back seat in the kitchen. Celery, you see,  is what’s called a flavour builder.  Used, a stick or two at a time, it gives depth to pretty much any sauce, soup or stew. In France, along with onion and carrot it’s part of the holy trinity known as Mirepoix- diced up and fried in butter (what else?) it’s the starting point of a millon dishes. They do the same in Italy although they saute in olive oil and in the markets it’s very common to see sticks of celery for sale instead whole heads and this makes a lot of sense because generally that’s all you really need. Luckily it lasts well so as long as you don’t forget it’s in the fridge you can use it up over time. Try adding it to any dishes you’re cooking over the next while and see if you notice a difference…

This week’s recipe is for a chickpea and Chorizo stew with a gutsy tomato sauce and it has lots and lots of celery. I don’t know what made me add it but when I made it the first time but I’m really glad I did because it works really well in a low- key background I don’t know what it does but it’s good kinda way.. I reckon Fennel could work aswell and would give a whole other direction to things but I haven’t tried it yet… I serve this dish with a cumin-scented cous cous that has roasted red pepper, lots of parsley and lovely toasted pumpkin seeds. Some greens on the side are great – a bowl of this with broccoli steamed or a green salad (this week’s lovely spinach is perfect but rocket with toasted pinenuts is lovely too) and my favourite: baked feta.  All this will feed at least 5 or 6 people and if you add a spanish omelette it’ll stretch to 10 or more and you get a lovely mezze thing going (lots of things on the plate) which I think is just about my favourite way to eat….

Chickpea and Chorizo Stew

You’ll need:

3 medium Onions

1/2 head Celery or 5-6 outer/bigger stalks

Olive Oil

1 Bay Leaf

300gr Chorizo

800gr tinned chopped tomatoes (2 tins)

1 Tin Chickpeas

A little Parmesan

Some flatleaf parsley

Begin by chopping the onions and throw them onto a pan with a generous glug of olive oil and the bay leaf. Begin cooking over a lowish heat. As they cook, prepare the celery. I think it’s always worth getting rid of those evil stringy bits first so do this with a veg peeler. Slice each stick lenghways into 4 strips then chop finely. Add this to the pan along with a pinch of salt and a little more oil if you think it needs it. Sautee the onions and the celery for about 30 minutes until they’ve  cooked down by about half. Slice the chorizo into pieces about 1cm thick and add them to the veg. Turn up the heat a smidgen and continue cooking for a further 20 minutes until the chorizo is nice and tender and  everything is a gorgeous paprika colour. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 20-30 minutes. When the tomatoes have reduced by at least half, taste the stew and add more seasoning if you think it needs it. Rinse a tin of chickpeas and stir them in along with a cup of warm water. Cook for a further 5 minutes then take off the heat. To serve top with some Parmesan shavings and chopped parsley

Cumin-scented Cous Cous with caramelized onions, roasted red pepper and toasted pumpkin seeds

You can prepare this in advance as it doesn’t need to be hot but if you make a start when the tomatoes go into the chorizo stew you’ll have more than enough time…

You’ll need:

2 medium onions chopped

Olive oil

2 heaped teaspoons cumin seeds

350 gr cous cous – I like wholemeal but it’s up to you

500ml hot water

2 handfuls pumpkin seeds

1 red pepper

A large handful parsley

Dressing:

The juice of 1 lemon

3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 Tablespoons olive oil

The first thing you need to do is roast your pepper. There are 2 ways to do this. If the oven is on stick it in there until the skin has wrinkled.  Depending on the temperature this will take between 20 and 30 minutes. When it comes out of the oven you put it in a plastic bag which creates lots of steam which somehow lifts the skin off the flesh. When the pepper has cooled take it out of the bag, carefully tear it in two, get rid of the seeds and liquid inside then the skin should lift off easily. Finally chop the pepper flesh up and set it aside for later. The other way to roast a pepper is messier but way faster. Put the pepper on top of a burner on your gas cooker. Allow the flesh to completely blacken all over (you’ll need to move it around to allow this to happen). After that, put it in a bag as before and then the only real difference is that getting the skin invloves getting rid of all the charred bits which seem to stick to the flesh but the pepper takes on a gorgeous charred flavour. While  all this is going on you can also be sauteeing your onions over a low heat in plenty of olive oil until they’ve completely melted down and turned that lovely dark golden colour. Add the cumin and cook for a further 5 minutes then take off the heat. Toast the pumpkin seeds over a medium heat on a dry pan until they start to darken (the first whiff of nuttiness means it’s time to get them off) then set aside. Toast the cous cous on a dry pan until it turns golden brown then turn the heat way down and add the hot water and a generous pinch of fine salt. Stir well until all the water is absorbed then take off the heat. Continue to stir adding the onions (the oiliness will help separate the cous cous grains). Add in the roasted pepper then allow the cous cous to cool down a bit before you finish it off by adding the pumpkin seeds and the parsley. Mix the dressing ingredients together and add them to the cous cous. Mix well then taste. Add more vinegar and/or lemon juice if you think it needs it. Bear in mind that if you dress this salad in advance or end up eating leftovers the next day you might need to add more lemon juice to pep it up as the zing fades over time.

Baked Feta

If you haven’t done this before you’ll never look back – it’s just soo easy and a total crowd pleaser. Please the slab of feta on a piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil, add a sprinkle of oregano and maybe some chilli. Wrap up the foil then bake for about 10 minutes in a medium oven.

Passion Fruit

As it’s Valentines on Sunday there are 2 passion fruit in all our Mediterranean bags this week so you can give 1 to the one you love and keep one for yourself (well, sometimes these things don’t last). Spoon it over vanilla or chocolate ice-cream for a lovely desert that is sure to impress. Those of you without passion fruit will of course have no chance of ever finding true love but still get to eat the chorizo stew and can make fab soup with this week’s butternut if you follow this link: https://homeorganics.wordpress.com/2008/10/24/butternut-squash/  I didn’t put celery in the original but now that you know how good it is you can add some in at the beginning. Enjoy!!!

 

Have a great weekend,

Sarah

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