Poor man’s pots with lemon & thyme pork chops…

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Poor man's pots with lemon & thyme pork chops...

This is a take on the famous Spanish dish of patatas a lo pobre – it is wondrous in its simplicity yet divine in its complexity of flavours. There is little like it – I could easily eat it on its own – or it could just as easily accompany anything from lamb to fish. I ate it in Menorca last August snuggling up to a snow white slice of monkfish and it was delectable – I swear I can still taste it when I close my eyes. That version was with green peppers. This one is based on Nigel Slater’s version from ‘Eat’.

For 4

750 kg baby new potatoes – scrubbed and halved
Olive oil
A red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 red peppers – deseeded and cut into thin strips
Large red onion sliced thinly
A clove of garlic finely chopped
Pinch of smoked paprika
Large knob of butter – about 75 gm
500 gm vegetable stock
A small bunch of basil finely sliced

Heat oil in a sauté pan. Place pots in cut side down with the chilli. Leave them for about 5 or 10 minutes while you deal with the peppers. Add them to the pan, then the onion and garlic. Then the paprika.

Pop in the butter and stir until all get coated nicely.

Leave again for about 10 to 15 minutes to get the potatoes browning in that very attractive fashion they have. Have a drink.

Then pour in the stock, bring to the boil, season a little. Cover with a lid and simmer for around 20 to 30 minutes until the stock has evaporated down a lot. I took the lid off for the last five minutes and crushed most of the potatoes ever so lightly with a masher to soak up the magical juice.

Stir in the basil at the end.

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I served this alongside a loin chop pan fried slowly in a little olive oil. Half way through cooking I grated over the zest of a lemon and sprinkled lots of thyme and black pepper.

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The resulting meal was one of those I simply wanted to prolong as much as possible – the flavours were straight from heaven – a Spanish heaven in this case – somewhere possibly just outside Granada or Zaragoza.

This is the grandaddy of the versions – but you could just do it with the spuds, onions, pepper and stock with a little seasoning.

If you have never tried this I urge you to. Soon.

Very soon.

Keep soup in the loop….Devilled Pepper, Courgette and Ham Soup to be specific…

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Keep soup in the loop....Devilled Pepper, Courgette and Ham Soup to be specific...

Midweek and with odd jobs of all sorts to do and to drive away the thought of the grim reaper weather lurking outside – mind he did have an anorak with him – I decided to go for a soup with a kick and a sense of heart too. Something to make you feel toasty inside.

So give this a go – especially if you ever have some ham left over from a joint.

For 4

1 courgette, sliced and diced
1 pepper – mine was yellow – but a red or orange one would be dandy
2 red onions finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Some dried chill flakes to taste – or a chopped deseeded red chilli
Black pepper
1 litre of chicken stock
Whatever ham you can muster – I used three slices chopped.
Olive oil

In a deep pan, fry the onion, courgette, garlic and onions until softening. Add the chilli. I used a teaspoon of dried red chilli flakes. Stir – then grind over a goodly grind of black pepper.
Then pour in the hot stock. Add 2/3rds of your ham. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down, pop a lid on and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Split the rest of the ham between your bowls and ladle over the soup. This was zingy and about as thrilling as soups get – Simple and effective as all the best soup recipes should be. So, keep soup in the loop this festive season!

p.s. maybe devilled was a bit over dramatic in the title but I wanted to give it a bit of drama and frankly it was worth it.

Anyway, it warmed the hell out of me!

And now the Paella recipe for Anna!

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A friend now dwelling in deepest Cornwall has just asked for the recipe for the paella below – how nice! Here you go young lady…though this is the full version – the poor man’s version enjoyed last night is basically without the chicken and chorizo – and using 100 gm of lardon instead – pan frying it first and then adding the peppers garlic etc and continuing from there. You can really add anything you want – rabbit instead of or as well as chicken, mussels, cockles…whatever is tickling your fancy that day or is lurking in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS – should serve between 4 and 6 folk

6 boneless chicken thighs, skinned and cut into mouth-sized chunks / 400 gm of paella rice rinsed well and drained in a sieve / 250 gm raw chorizo sausage, skinned and cut into decent slices – though you could use a cured one , just do not fry for as long / At least 20 decent prawns – not raw / 1 red pepper and 1 green pepper deseeded and chopped / 6 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped – last night I just used two as all I had left! / 125 ml of white wine / 1litre chicken stock / pinch of saffron or colorante / 1/2 tsp smoked paprika / 100 gm of peas / 6 good toms deseeded and chopped- though again last night I just used 5 gorgeous cherry tomatoes and simply quartered them  / bunch of parsley chopped

I use a Valencian paella pan – around £26-£30 on Amazon – or use a large sauté pan. Heat a good glug of olive oil and brown the chicken pieces. Take out and put on a plate to one side. Then pop in the chorizo and pan fry lightly for 2 minutes or so. Then add the peppers and garlic. Fry for another 5 minutes or so. Keep stirring all the time. Stir in the rice and let it toast lightly for 2 minutes. Now add the wine – have one for yourself too! Cook’s perks! Add the stock, the colouring – colorante – or the saffron, and the paprika. Bring to the boil gently stirring all the time.  Let it bubble then return the chicken to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for around 15 minutes. Stir every now and then in between sips of wine.  Put some music on! Add the peas next and cook gently for another 5 minutes, then add the prawns. Stir gently and leave for a further 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it stand for about 5 minutes or so. The rice should still have a little bite to it.

I adore this dish – ok…I will not rave on any further than I did yesterday! You get the picture! Enjoy, Anna,  and anyone else who gives it a go – I am sure you all have a paella recipe like this – if not give it a go!

(See last post for the pic – and just imagine it with chorizo slices and bits of chicken in!)

Clear up Paella…

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Clear up Paella...

Off to my Menorcan paradise this weekend for two weeks so having to cook dishes that use up what is in the cupboards or fridge. So tonight was a bit of a poor man’s paella – but though I had no chicken or chorizo – i had to use 100 gm of lardons instead of the latter – the resulting flavour was terrific – and there is none left! So I guess it worked! I used up the red and green peppers I had left and about 8oz of prawns that needed eating. Paella is such a sexy dish to cook anytime and the colours are so vibrant. I love, just love, cooking it.

Got to work out what to do with 4 cracking pork chops tomorrow! Cupboard is almost bare!