Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Pollo Español (Spanish chicken)

There is a long relationship between Britain and Spain. However, the traditional British image of Spain is quite lopsided and very different to the reality. It's Manuel from Fawlty Towers (as portrayed by a Jewish Englishman). It's colonies of retired middle-Englanders who want warm weather, bingo and the Daily Mail. It's holidays on the Med. It's places you can get egg and chips and a pot of sodding Tetley's or a pint of pissing Tetley's any time of day, where you can buy a souvenir straw donkey that disintegrates into razor-sharp fragments that are just the right size to lodge in a toddler's windpipe as soon as it encounters the British climate. It's Torremo-fucking-linos, Costa del-shitting Sol, Beni-cunting-dorm.Yes, this is a seriously fucking skewed image of what is actually a magnificent and varied country.

Salvador Dali's The Great Masturbator
Well, this is a blog written by a massive pretentious wanker

OK, from that opening paragraph, two things are plainly obvious. 1: I'm an insufferable snobby and arrogant prick as far as travel is concerned and 2: I absolutely fucking love Spain. I love the food, the wine, the people, the lifestyle, the climate, even the language. Their beer's not all that, but, hey, nowhere's perfect. Besides, since this is also the place that gave the world Velazquez, Dali, Picasso, Miro, Gaudi, Cervantes, Almodavar I can let them off that. Anyway, since this is a food blog, let's concentrate on that aspect of Spanish life. Spanish food is hugely varied from region to region but is crystallised in one thing: tapas. Plates of food you get in a bar when you order drinks. Often they're even fucking free! And it's not even crap food, either. It's usually things like jamon iberico, chorizo, seafood morsels, portions of hearty stew, paella. FREE! And the ingredients are so fucking fresh. It's all about meat with real flavour and vibrant vegetables. You can actually taste the sun in this food. It's like felching a star. Seriously, what's not to love about a country who approaches food like that?

That brings me onto this recipe. It's yet another quick and cheap meal that tastes frigging great. In reality it's a pretty pale imitation of a genuine Spanish stew like carcamusas*. For a start it's got tinned tomatoes, the peppers are most likely to be from Holland or Morocco, the onion is British. The chorizo is probably Spanish, mind. On the other hand, while it's a diluted version, it still tastes very much of Spain though.

Preparation: 10-15 minutes
Cooking: around 90 minutes in total

2 tbsp olive oil
500g chicken fillet, cubed
1 large onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
100g chorizo, chopped
1 sweet pepper (red, orange or yellow), chopped
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp smoked paprika
Pinch dried thyme
Black pepper to taste.
150 ml dry sherry
juice of half a lemon (or 1tbsp of bottled stuff)
1 tsp sugar


Onions, garlic, pepper and chorizo frying in olive oil

Heat the oil and add the chicken to seal and gain a little colour.

After about 5 minutes, remove it with a slotted spoon and add the onion and garlic to the remaining oil and fry gently for 5-7 minutes until the onion is softened.

Add the chorizo and fry for another of couple of minutes.

Throw in the pepper and fry up for another two minutes before adding the tomatoes.

Return the chicken to the pan and stir in the tomato puree, paprika, thyme and pepper.

Leave to simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

Add the sherry and lemon juice and stew for 30-60 minutes, at least until the chicken is cooked. Taste and add the sugar if necessary (it's to offset the sourness of the lemon juice).

Add salt if required.

Works well with fresh bread and sauté potatoes, especially if you tart them up with a bit of rosemary and salt.

The stew ready to serve

*Carcamusas is a stew of pork in tomatoes which is from the city of Toledo. That's a sweary blog to come.

By sherry I mean a manzanillo or fino. It has to be dry and pale. Not QC, not "medium" and definitely not Harvey's fucking Bristol cream. This is not the same drink associated with the WI. Real sherry is a wonderful, crisp drink that is a great aperitif or actually goes well with the dish instead of a regular white wine.

For something that's essentially just a fancy sausage, chorizo is one of the most fantastic ingredients in savoury cooking. It makes almost anything taste fucking great.

While the recipe above works all year round, you could make it that much more authentic at the height of summer with ripe, fresh tomatoes, fresh thyme and better quality peppers.

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