The days are getting colder and shorter. Summer is truly over. All dreams and fantasies we may have had for an 'Indian Summer' ended when we had to tear off the calendar page for September and stare October squarely in the face. As a result, thoughts start to turn to Autumnal food; typically for me, hot food which is warming and filling.
So on a particularly grey and wet London day, I wanted to recall the heat and sunshine of Spain. I decided to pull the slow cooker out of its Summer semi-retirement and enlist it into action. Slow cookers are versatile, inexpensive to buy and cheap to run. You can put them on first thing in the morning and be greeted to a cooked meal when you get in, tired and exhausted at the end of the day. All it demands in return is a small amount of effort in preparation and set-up first thing in the morning. They are very popular in the USA where they are often called by their most famous brand name, 'Crockpot'. However, they appear to be less commonplace in the UK, which is a shame given that you can now get controllable models with more than one temperature setting, offering greater versatility than when I acquired my trusty Morphy Richards racing green model.
If you don't have a slow cooker, you could use a flameproof casserole dish (such as the French cast iron style ones). You will have to put the oven on, and the cooking time will be far less. I would guess at a temperature of 180°C, gas mark 4, and instead of putting on the slow cooker base, cook in the oven with the lid on for about an hour and a half to 2 hours (but don't quote me on this, since I didn't test it). Or if your slow cooker does not have a removable heatproof pan like mine, you may have to start the early cooking stages in a saucepan or frying pan on the hob.
Your beans need to be soaked for at least 7 hours before you try making this recipe. Unless you have a pressure cooker! Or you could use a tin of chick peas and a tin of butter beans. I use tins for convenience fairly often, but the taste and texture of pulses is, to my palate, a little more satisfying if done yourself by soaking then boiling. But do whatever you have the time to do, because remembering to do the soaking and then having the time to do the boiling in the morning is quite a big ask. Especially if you have to make it into work at a sensible time! I made this on my 'preparation day' when I was preparing my civil litigation class at home.
Spanish Chorizo Stew with Butter Beans and Chick Peas
150g Butter beans, soaked overnight in a non-metallic bowl150g chick peas, soaked overnight in a non-metallic bowl
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
1 red pepper diced into 1cm dice
6 cloves garlic, very finely diced
Chorizo, sliced into 5mm thick rounds
1 Fennel bulb, halved lengthways and then sliced
2 chilis, halved along their length leaving the stalk attached
2 heaped tsp rosemary, very finely chopped
1 heaped tsp sage (6-7 leaves), very finely chopped
300-400ml chicken stock
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp flat leaf parley, chopped
Soak the chick peas and butter beans separately in 2 non-metallic bowls overnight - at least 7 hours.
Drain and rinse the soaked beans and chick peas separately.
Put the beans and chick peas into separate pans, covering generously in cold water. Put on the heat. When boiling, set a timer and boil for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Start by heating the oil in the bottom of your slow cooker pan frying the onion and pepper for 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and fry for another 3-5 minutes.
Now add the chorizo in a flameproof casserole over a low heat until the oil is released.
This is what the contents of the pan will look like when you first add the chorizo:
This is what it will look like when the chorizo starts to release the paprika-infused oils and fats contained within it:
Add the fennel and fry for 5 minutes until it begins to soften.
Add the beans, chick peas and tinned tomatoes, keeping on the heat so that you bring them from room temperature to the same temperature as the rest of the dish. Top up with the stock until all the ingredients are covered. Add the rosemary and sage.
Now put onto the slow cooker base and cook for 7 hours on the main slow cooking setting.
If you are cooking in the oven, place in the oven with the lid on. I think it will need about an hour, but it may need more. Test every now and then.
When the beans and chick peas are soft and tender, the dish is done. Serve in bowls topped with lots of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley.
Tuck in with some crusty bread.