A perk of the job…

March 31, 2010

One of the most important parts of my job at the women’s magazine where I work is to suck up to the food editor. After all, he needs to know he has a Deputy Receiver Of Free Stuff he can trust!

Okay, so I’m not always the first person to get the freebies that land on his desk (he has this strange sense of fairness that means everything gets shared out equally in the office…), but last week he did hand me an interesting looking, British-made chorizo, from a company called The Bath Pig.

I left it in my fridge for a few days, because I knew, as soon as I opened the packet, it would be a matter of minutes before the whole thing was gone. And I was almost right.

I started off by adding some to a grilled pepper salad (pictured above), which I took to work for lunch yesterday. The chorizo had a very nice, strong, paprika flavour, but, in my opinion, needed to be slightly more oily. It was very dense, which is great, but just very slightly too dry.

Although, that certainly didn’t put me off making a determined effort to finish it last night.

For supper, I fried up some more slices alongside a clove of garlic and a few scallops, then put them on top of braised leeks, added a squeeze of lemon juice and a handful of chopped parsley, and mopped it all up with some lovely, warm, crusty white bread. Frying the chorizo made it very crispy, and a bit bacony, but this actually went really well with the soft sweetness of the scallops.

Despite my concerns about the texture of this chorizo, I did think the flavour was very authentic. I bought another British chorizo last year, from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s online shop, and I have to say that The Bath Pig one was definitely better.

So, if you do come across it, why not give it a go.

If you have any interest in food, when you’re shopping, it’s always fascinating to see what other people are buying. And Borough Market is the perfect place to have a nose in random stranger’s baskets.

This morning, I found myself following people around, curious to know what they were going to cook with the things they were buying. Then, I suddenly thought, why not just ask!

So, here is the inaugural post of what I hope will become a regular feature on And The Cupboard Was Bare…, which I’ve titled What’s In Your Cupboard?

The kind couple who allowed me to poke around in their morning’s shopping had come up to Borough Market from Surrey. And their plans for the contents of their brightly coloured shopper sounded very tasty indeed.

The selection of field, shitake and girolle mushrooms were intended for a risotto, while the leeks were going to be an addition to their Sunday roast – chicken stuffed with the paprika-filled onion chorizo they’d bought from a small Spanish food stall at the market.

Using chorizo as a stuffing is not something I’ve come across before, but I have to admit, my mouth was watering as it was described to me.

It sounds absolutely delicious, and it’s just a shame they live all the way down in Surrey, or I’d be knocking on their door tomorrow lunchtime, asking to join them.

This, I believe, may be one of my slightly odder recipe reinterpretations. I know there are many dishes out there that combine squid and chorizo – it seems to be a very of-the-moment combination – but for some reason, last night, I decided the one thing in my fridge that would go perfectly with it was a crunchy bunch of brussel tops.

My assumption was based on a Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall recipe I’ve made once or twice, involving a cheat’s home-made chorizo, clams and purple sprouting broccoli. I didn’t have the clams or sprouting broccoli, and my chorizo was shop-bought, but, I thought, the basic concept should still stand.

The brussel tops were thinly shredded and steamed for a few minutes, until cooked but still with a bite. Meanwhile, I quickly browned some chopped chorizo, and added a sliced clove of garlic, plus a pinch of ground fennel seeds and paprika. Then, once it was all lovely and fragrant, I added the squid, and cooked for barely a minute or so. Some chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon and a little seasoning of salt and pepper, and it was ready to spoon over the cooked brussel tops.

It may seem an unlikely combination, but the sweetness of the greens and the squid was a perfect foil to the full-flavoured smokiness of the chorizo. A hearty yet healthy winter supper, I reckon.

A year or so ago, I started taking a home-made lunch into work every day. It started as a money-saving exercise (and boy, does it save money if you work, as I do, in central London), but now I do it because it means I can choose exactly what I want to eat.

Although, I have to admit, by the end of each week, I do often have some slightly bizarre/boring lunches, as I try and finish off the dregs of my fridge’s salad crisper. However, today, despite only using some leftovers, the result was one of the tastiest lunches I’ve had in ages.

With a good chunk of chorizo still left, I added a few fried slices to some finely shredded kale, and chucked in half a tin of chickpeas. My last couple of sticks of celery and the remains of a cucumber also found their way into the salad, while I made a dressing with the olive oil I’d fried the chorizo in (beautifully flavoured by the smoky meat) and some red wine vinegar.

All in all, the perfect combination for a winter salad.

A food first…

January 19, 2010

Standing at the Secretts Farm vegetable stall in Borough Market on Saturday, looking at all the wonderful seasonal goodies on offer, I realised there was something I’d never eaten before – kale. I’m a big fan of crunchy green veg – cabbage, broccoli, yes, even sprouts – so I don’t know why I’ve never bothered with kale before.

I remembered seeing a number of recipes using it recently, so thought it was about time I tried it. A dish that came to mind as I was making my purchase was a Nigel Slater one from The Observer a couple of weeks ago for kale and chorizo. And, as there is a stall selling chorizo right next to the Secretts Farm one, I decided I had no choice but to buy some. A ring of the most deliciously spicy, aromatic chorizo cost me £6, but it keeps for about three months, so I thought if I use it sparingly I’ll really get my money’s worth from it.

In the end, my first foray into the world of kale didn’t involve Nigel Slater. Instead, I used a recipe for chorizo, kale and potato broth from the BBC Good Food website that had caught my eye. I love it when you find a recipe for a dish and have all the ingredients already to hand. The only thing I changed with this one was to add half a tin of tomatoes that was already open in my fridge, and really needed to be used up.