Spanish

Spanish Pork Casserole with Chorizo & Butter Beans

A true one-pot wonder, this simple Spanish inspired casserole is big on flavour and refreshingly light on effort. Other than the initial stages of browning the ingredients, this dish pretty much takes care of itself and rewards with a tasty family friendly meal that can be adapted to cater to almost all tastes and preferences.

Spanish Pork Casserole with Chorizo & Butter BeansNow I have to be honest, this wonderful casserole is about as Spanish as chow mien is Chinese or California rolls are Japanese, but these days cultural authenticity is hardly an impediment to being the poster child of world cuisine. The modern maxim seems to be, “If a dish tastes good, who cares?” and rightfully so. After all, when the results are this tasty, I’m all about the muddled.

So whilst only vaguely Spanish, this simple dish is nevertheless brimming with classic Iberian flavours and, for a change, all the ingredients are perennial pantry staples. Admittedly I take it for granted that my larder resembles an over-stocked cornucopia of random ingredients, but this isn’t the sort of dish that calls for long forgotten packets of shrimp paste, bamboo leaves and jellyfish (yes, I do actually have the latter lurking in the depths of my fridge!). I digress, however.

Thankfully, significantly less exotic pantry staples are required for this dish, namely tins of butter-beans, chopped tomatoes, chorizo and smoked paprika. Admittedly smoked paprika isn’t necessarily a staple pantry item, but is readily available at most supermarkets or it can be substituted with regular paprika and a pinch of chilli powder or flakes. You can also use chickpeas instead of the butter beans and the fennel seeds can be omitted if you don’t have any…like I said, this recipe is nothing if not adaptable.

Note: As with most stews and casseroles, this dish will be all the better from a night chilling in the fridge.

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Pork, Chickpea & Black Pudding Stew

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a real soft spot for a good old slice of black pudding!

A grim stalwart of a true Full English, black pudding has for many years been perceived as being one of the more unpalatable progeny of British cuisine. Along with the likes of jellied eels and winkles, black pudding harks back to an era when Britain was not unfairly considered the culinary backwater of Europe. Mercifully though, the tide has long since turned and thanks to an army of parading TV chefs, there is a renewed appreciation of local produce and food traditions in the UK. As a result, British cuisine has witnessed an unprecedented renaissance and thankfully, winkles not withstanding, the likes of black pudding have come along for the ride. Unfortunately, the reality is that few ingredients can transcend disgusting to de rigueur, but black pudding is slowly making its way back into the mainstream of British cuisine.

In nearby Spain, however, black pudding has had a far easier time of it. Known as morcilla or blood sausage, the Spanish seem to have none of the hang-ups about eating it that typically plauge its British cousin. Whether it be simply fried and served with bread or used to add depth and flavour to stews and soups, morcilla remains popular throughout Spain, if not the entire Spanish-speaking world.

Which brings me to this delightfully hearty stew!

On the face of it, this is just another typical Spanish stew, but what sets this recipe apart is, of course, the addition of black pudding. One of the last ingredients to be added, the black pudding has a transformative effect on the dish and is an absolute flavour-masterstroke – especially if the stew is afforded an evening to mature in the fridge. First fried and then added at the final stage of cooking, the black pudding melds with the sauce as it simmers, adding a depth and richness that elevates this humble stew to new, delicious, heights! 

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Pork, Fennel and Butter Bean Stew

Pork, Fennel & Butter Bean StewI have always been a fan of one-pot wonders and this has to be one of my all-time favourites!

Not to be confused with the classic, tomato-based, Spanish stew of Pork, Chorizo & Butter Beans, this wonderful piquant braise is, however, equally delicious! Whilst not strictly Spanish, this humble stew has all the hallmarks of Iberian cuisine; uncomplicated, but packed full of flavour. I must however confess that I don’t usually enjoy dishes that are overtly lemony, but this stew is an exception. The chunks of smoky chorizo adds depth to the zesty broth which, in turn, balances the richness of the pork shoulder. All great meals are about balance, and this stew walks that tightrope brilliantly!

Traditional accompaniments aside, this dish goes very well with just about anything and whilst some fresh tagliatelle or simple mash would be awesome, I personally love it with just some crusty bread. What better way to mop up the delicious sauce? Add a simple rocket/arugula salad, pour yourself a glass of chilled white wine and you have true Mediterranean bliss on a plate. Phenomenal.

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Merluza à la Gallega (Spanish Hake and Chorizo)

imageOn the face of it, South African and Spanish cuisines have virtually nothing in common, except for one thing – both countries consume a staggering amount of hake!

Know as merluza in Spain and often referred to as stockfish in South Africa, hake is a staple in both countries. Sadly, hake in South Africa is usually relegated to being given the “fish ‘n chips treatment”, which is a shame as its light and delicate flavour deserves so much more. Generally considered an every-man’s fish, when it comes to more complex dishes, South Africans tend to pass over hake in favour of classier fish like kob or kingklip. In Spain, however, hake is viewed with slightly more reverence than it is afforded in South Africa and, as a result, it benefits from a greater appreciation of its true potential.

My favourite way of sprucing up a piece of hake, Merluza à la Gallega is a revelation to all hake loving South Africans! Quick, tasty and relatively cheap to make, this dish is a true one-pot wonder. I love to serve this dish with some day-old ciabatta, drizzled with some olive oil and lightly grilled – it is the perfect way to mop up the smoky broth!

Trust me, you will never see the humble hake in quite the same way ever again. Impossibly good.

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