Friends of mine are constantly sending me pictures of the delicious meals that they have been cooking. I do the same. There is a real sense of pride and achievement when you cook something which tastes and looks wonderful. Unfortunately, a lot of the time there is no one around to fully appreciate it! This blog is for people who want to share their culinary triumphs with everyone else. Email me the recipe and a photo of the finished product on

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Guilt-free eating

If there's one thing that both my parents have taught me throughout my ongoing food education, it's that one can never have a guilty conscience when it comes to eating. Do what you must do, and be proud of it. And always think of yourself before others. My first brutal induction into this ideology came from my Uncle Iain at a very early age. Every Sunday lunch he would successfully divert my concentration away from my roast to some non-existent bird or creature in the garden with an exclamation of surprise. It only took him that split second to swoop in, hawk-like, and extract the most delicious part of my lunch - always the crackling, if there was any. Many, many of the choicest morsels have been lost to my Uncle Iain, but do I resent him? Don't be ridiculous. Instead I have admired and learned from his quick-wit and deftness, and have since reaped the benefits of his example from the plates of my younger brother and sisters.

My mother has always presented herself as a fine example of a guilt-free eater. Her weakness (or should I say strength?) is chocolate. Most notorious of all, is the time that she bought a box of Lindt bunnies as a gift for a friend, and nibbled the ears off in the few hours between purchasing the chocolates and handing them over. When confronted about it now, she makes no apology, merely shrugs and says, 'They're my favourite'.

My sister and I have learned never to be embarrassed about our attitude towards food. If you are in Argentina, the home of the steak, and you want to have it for both lunch and supper, then you must do so. At Christmas, count out the canapes so you know exactly how many each person should get, and be quick to scold those who are having more than their fair share. If no-one wants to share the cheese-fondue for two, have the whole thing to yourself. Grab the last brownie, serve yourself first, always lick the bowl, and most importantly, do it with pride.

A Chorizo Emergency

I really love chorizo. I know, I does everyone. But I really love chorizo. Whenever my father used to go away, he used to bring my sister and I back little gifts: Moomin books from Sweden, hand painted dolls from Prague or emergency Toblerone bars from whichever airport he found himself at minus a present. But if he went to Spain, he knew it was only worth him returning home if he was laden with one thing: delicious, juicy, mouth-watering, scrumptious Spanish chorizo. Once, when I was about 9, he brought back a wonderful dry cured specimen which I hung on a little nail above my bed - perfect for nibbling at whenever I felt the need... which was frequent, I can assure you. Unhygienic? Probably... but here lies the problem. I tend to find that I have very little common sense where chorizo is concerned.

First of all, there is my uncontrollable use of it as an ingredient... I literally cannot help myself. Rationality and Greg Wallace from Masterchef tell me time and again that chorizo has an incredibly strong taste which can easily overpower subtler flavours. I know this. But quite frankly, when the porky, garlicy, paprika flavour is so delicious, who cares if I can't taste the scallops or the leeks in the risotto? From my point of view, they should be happy to take a backseat to such a king of ingredients.

My father (Mark) also tends towards a slightly unbalanced adoration of chorizo. Over the last week, I have been home alone, as he and his girlfriend (Cherry) and my naughty little sisters and brother (Honey, Lily and Billy) have been on holiday on a remote Scottish island. Having been warned that I would be unable to contact them for a week due to absolutely no signal on the island, I was slightly surprised to hear from Dad mid-week.

'Can you hear me?' (I could just hear him through the crackling of very little signal)

'Yes - is everything alright, why are you calling?' (slightly panicked...)

'Everything's fine here...crackle crackle...but there's a slight emergency that I must... hello?... tell you about...'

'Dad?? hello... what? hello?'

'There's some excellent quality... the fridge...NEAR ITS SELL BY DATE... you must use it... DON'T LET IT GO TO WASTE...'

And with that he was gone. Heart beating fast, I raced to the fridge to check that the cause of my father's stress was still edible, that his phone call hadn't been in vain... (and more importantly that I would be able to eat my favourite thing for supper...) All was well. I promptly rang a fellow chorizo aficionado and together we concocted the following recipe:

Chorizo and Pork Lentil Stew

Serves 6-8

2 red onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 sticks of celery
3 dried red chillis
4 red/yellow peppers, cut into strips
a packet of cherry tomatoes
a bunch of fresh parsley
400g tinned tomatoes
a splash of red wine
4 pork chops, cut into 5cm chunks
1 large cooking chorizo
1 tbsp picante (spicy) paprika
puy lentils
salt and pepper

This couldn't be easier... throw the onions, garlic, celery, peppers and cherry tomatoes into a casserole pan and fry until softened. Then add the chorizo and chopped up pork. Fry until the pork is browned.

Add the tinned tomatoes, a splash of red wine, the paprika, chillies and seasoning. Bring to the boil, then turn it down to a simmer and cover. Let it bubble away until it looks all stewy, squishy and yummy... about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put on your lentils, following the instructions on the packet. They will take about 20 minutes. When they are done, pour them into the casserole pan and mix it all together. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

I have about one hundred favourite chorizo recipes (mainly because I think it can be added to anything), but here is a real lunchtime treat from Mary Gwynn's new cookbook:

Avocado and chorizo ciabatta sandwich

Serves 1

4 - 6 cherry vine tomatoes
1 ready to bake ciabatta roll
1/2 avocado, halved, stoned and peeled
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 mini cooking chorizo, halved down the centre (or 4 -6 slices of good quality chorizo)
1 clove garlic, peeled
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C Gas Mark 6. Place the tomatoes in a small roasting tin. Cook for 10 minutes until starting to shrivel. Add the ciabatta to the oven for the last 6 minutes.

Heat the oil in a griddle or non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Add the chorizo and cook for a couple of minutes a side until cooked through. Remove and keep warm

Split the ciabatta and add to the pan. Cook on both sides until crisp then rub with the garlic. Arrange the chorizo in one piece then add the roasted tomatoes and sliced avocado. Season and top with the other half of the ciabbata. Squash together to mix the flavours, cut in half and serve.