Weekday nights are some of the hardest things to cook for, I have come to realise. You put in a full day's work. You contend with the evening commute (mine is courtesy of Southeastern rail, and just a cursory check of #southeastern on twitter will tell you EVERYTHING you might want to know about their customer service). Then, tired and careworn, you make it home. Frankly, all you want to do is crack open a bottle of wine and ring out for takeaway.
But home cooking is a noble and worthwhile art. Even on a "schoolnight" (and to all those people who disapprove of grown ups using that phrase to describe Monday to Thursday evenings, I say this: I work for a university, so I'm ALLOWED to call it a schoolnight!). You will feel more pride from doing it yourself... and if recent revelations from Which and the Food Standards Agency are anything to go by, you are far more likely to know exactly what you are eating too!
I'm always looking for new and fresh ideas for weekday night suppers. Dinners which can be rustled up quickly, but don't suffer from blandness.
Another prerequisite is full and happy flavours. An area where the gutsy, sunshine flavours of Spain come up trumps. Who doesn't love the fragrance of fresh parsley, the punch of chorizo coupled with lemon and onions?
My idea was to make a salad influenced by the flavours and typical produce of Spain. Obviously influenced by the Moors and southern or eastern Mediterranean, I wanted to include healthy and protein rich pulses and legumes, herbs and olive oil. Chorizo would add paprika along with its meaty texture and pepper and artichoke some crunch.
Recently, I followed Nizami Foods on twitter. They are a company producing food products with an Indian twist. Think Chinese Chilli oil with roasted garlic or Thai tamarind chutney with an Indian flourish of cumin and dates. Well, everyone told me that twitter was "a total waste of time". Turns out I was their 100th follower (genuinely) and as a thank you, they wanted to send me some products as a thank you. One of them was a Romesco sauce, which was an Spanish red pepper sauce with an Indian twist.
The Romesco sauce suggested that it be used as the base for either a pasta sauce or a marinade. Marinading is one of the midweek cook's top tricks. You either start the marinading before you go to work (for those typically long marinaded dishes) and leave the ingredients to work their magic whilst you toil away or you start as soon as you get home and get all your preparation and other tasks done before cooking. It was a no-brainer; marinade was going to be the use.
This dish uses a number of storecupboard ingredients I have recently discovered. One was garlic paste by Garden Gourmet which is very useful for squeezing into salad dressings (as I have done here) but also marinades. The other was artichoke bottoms in brine by Morphakis found in the local Turkish shop. The Romesco sauce I have already mentioned.
So here is a supper we enjoyed recently. The salad can be enjoyed as a meal on its own or a side dish with grilled meat, possibly a full flavoured fish. I think the salad, if made in excess, would make a wonderful packed lunch for work the next day (cook's prerogative, of course!).
Spanish style chick pea and butter bean salad
Serves 2-4 people, depending how much salad to meat you like.
You can substitute the red onion with a banana shallot. You don't want to use a white onion, as it won't be sweet flavoured enough.
For the salad:1 can chick peas drained and rinsed
1 can butter beans drained and rinsed
1 handful of fresh flat leaf parsley chopped roughly
70-80g chorizo chopped into fine rounds
1 small red onion, halved and sliced finely
2 artichoke bottoms, finely diced
2 peppadew peppers, finely diced
For the salad dressing:
1/2 teaspoon garlic paste
juice of 1 lemon
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
For the marinaded pork:
2 pork loin steaks
1/2 bottle Romesco sauce by Nizami
1. Marinade the pork loin steaks in the Romesco sauce for at least 30 minutes. An hour would be better.
2. In the meantime, prepare the salad ingredients as set out above. Get all your ingredients except for the herbs, chorizo and dressing in a bowl.
3. Another task to deal with in the meantime is to heat either your grill or your griddle pan so that it is hot.
4. Put the pork loin on to grill, about 7 minutes each side.
5. Fry your chorizo rounds in a little olive oil. Wait until they start to go brown.
6. Once the chorizo is brown, lift out of the pan with a slotted spoon or spatula onto a plate covered in kitchen paper (to soak up the excess fat and oil).
7. Mix up your salad dressing in either a mug (mixed with a spoon) or in a jam jar by closing the jar and shaking vigourously.
8. Just before you are ready to serve up, mix all of the salad ingredients with the chorizo and dressing. You want the dressing to coat everything thinly.
9. Serve the salad with the cooked pork loin steaks.
Snigdha was sent a bottle of Romesco sauce by Nizami who did not expect any coverage to result. It was sent on account of my being their 100th follower on twitter.