Puchero is a soupy Spanish peasant stew. It’s also one of the earliest things I remember eating. My mother used to make it when I was growing up; a bastardised take, worked up from a half-remembered recipe with whatever she could find in 1980s & 90s Darlington.

You can find a lot of recipes for South American puchero, and the Spanish variants are multitudinous. Standard for those rustic dishes named after a stewpot a few hundred years ago. Elisabeth Luard tracks it back to Andalusia, making it as a simple broth of roasted chestnuts and whatever ham’s going spare. That sounds amazing, but it’s not what I remember.
Puchero (ish)

No, what I remember is a vivid broth of tender pork belly and plump chickpeas, flavoured through with scant chunks of chorizo. They were always the best bits – an unusual ingredient in that time and place, a treat to be hunted out in any bowlful. The sausages were a finer-grained Lincoln, sometimes a Cumberland, giving a plainer offset, but with the pepper adding interest.

I’ll wager we ate it with a good deal less meat per head than I’ve allocated here, and likely more carrots and chickpeas. I’ve amped up the indulgence, but you can dial it back down and go in hard on the veg. A little fatty pork goes a long way after all.

Anyway, here’s my best guess. I think my mum’s old recipe notebook is still floating around somewhere. It’d be fascinating to compare.


Tinga Poblana (pork, chorizo, and chipotle stew)

When I was a teenager, my dad taught me to cook. I mean, he tried. I was a truculent little fucker even then, and I doubt I really listened. Still he taught at a catering college, and somehow some basics of technique and flavour sank in. I don’t think I really learned to cook though until a bit later, living in a grotty shared house, having rage-quit the family home, post graduation.

As tantrums go, “I’m moving to Cambridge” was a bit dumb, and more than a little expensive. But not wanting to let the cooking shtick wither entirely, my dad packed me off with a few books. Some core catering texts, a well-thumbed Delia, and a couple of quirky extras that have since become two of my favourites. They were Elisabeth Luard’s European Peasant Cookery, and Rick Bayless’ Authentic Mexican, and they massively influenced my early cooking forays. The latter introduced me to Tinga Poblana, one of the first things I learned to cook then really ran with.

Tinga Poblana


It’s bound up in a whole bunch of memories – if I cook for you at all in person, the odds are you’ll have eaten some version of it. Hell, I’ve been titting about with Tinga Poblana for about ten years, and this won’t be the final version I settle on by any means.

It’s smoky and deep, with a sweetness I’ve brought to the front using sweet potato and extra onion. The chorizo and chipotle give some and darkness, so you don’t need much extra by way of spice. But I do like to add some allspice just to round it all out.


Sticky chorizo potatoes

Winter starches, yeah? But something a bit quicker than a stew? Cursory tapas influence? Yep, sweet – hop on.

Chorizo potatoes

Ok, it’s a terrible picture – I’m still finding my feet with flash and working without daylight. But I’ll assure you, it tastes way better than it looks, and you can bring it in at just under twenty minutes. That’s not bad given how much faffing I usually mandate.

It’s potatoes and chorizo and garlic and stock, and it does what it says on the tin.

It might not make the cut for the book, but I’ll definitely be making it again.

Food Review

Tapas night

There’s a little tapas place in Brighton I’ve been going to quite a bit. It’s called something like “Bodega d tapa”, and I’d link to it, but their website has been sporting an “under construction” landing page for the last three years. I think it’s the sister restaurant of Solera, and the menu is similar if you want a flavour of the offering. It’s good, but not amazing, and has somehow worked itself onto the list of places I go for a dash of comfort food when I rock up in Brighton shattered on a Friday evening. Anyway, that’s not really the point.

Meatballs with tomato sauce

The point is that I’ve been eating a lot of tapas lately, and thought it was long past time I had a crack at it. Fortunately, the folks behind the immense Spanish cookbook
1080 Recipes  have turned their attention to the subject and produced The Book of Tapas.

It’s good. It’s really good.


Stuffed potato skins

…or “twice baked potatoes”, or “fully loaded skins” if that floats your boat.

Over lunch on Saturday, Kit – somewhat left-field – suggested potato skins for dinner. They’re a greasy, joyous bar grub classic, and I agreed in a second.

Stuffed potato skins - done

They also go by more names than Gandalf. Well, ok, they go by a shade under half as many names as Gandalf if we’re being pernickety, but that’s not the point. The point is that dishes with multiple vernacular names are a searchability (and SEO) headache, but I’m fairly sure that whether we’re calling them stuffed skins, loaded skins, or twice baked potatoes, they’re all the same filthy/gorgeous greasy carb pile.


Potato, leek and chorizo pie

The Delicious Magazine website has a neat looking recipe for a Limoges style potato pie. The basis of it is simple enough – a flat, crimped, two sheet pastry affair of layered potatoes with herbs and shallots. But what got my attention was the liquid filling. A kind of savoury herb custard is poured into the pie midway through cooking. Egg yolks, beaten into warmed cream, go in through a hole in the top crust.

I assume this sets partially through the cooking time but remains a little most, adding a light gravy to a pie that could otherwise be a little dry. A quick Google hasn’t yielded much insight into this particular technique, but the pie sounded splendid, and I thought I’d give it a go.

Slice of potato leek and chorizo pie

Of course, I couldn’t help but tinker. My partner suggested “something with potatoes and leeks” for dinner, I’m mildly obsessed with chorizo, and I straight-up forgot the liquid filling was meant to go in part way through. So this is not the Delicious Magazine Limoges-style potato pie. It’s a kind of confused spicy homage.

I’ll re-do the Limoges pie properly in the week.


Braised red cabbage with chorizo

braisedcabbage (3)Cabbage is great. Not your soggy schooldays slop, mind – wilted to hell and smelling of damp flatulence and disappointment. No, We’re talking fresh, crisp, savoury cabbage, cooked with a bit of respect for texture rather than a thinly-repressed loathing for children.

Ok, so there’s sauerkraut – that’s soggy and awesome, but the point stands. Cabbage rocks. It is particularly good when shredded fine and cooked in the run-off fat and juices of a joint of ham.

Yesterday, I had a powerful craving for the stuff, and decided to just throw some together with other flavours I liked.


chorizo, broad bean, and tomato pasta

I should probably have two categories on this blog: one for recipes that are safe to follow straight-up, and one for those that need anything between a light spot of tinkering and a full-on rewrite. This is one of the milder of the second category.

It’s not that this didn’t work, exactly, but the balance is way off, and the intended freshness of the tomatoes was present but too muted. Chorizo and tomato more or less always works, though, so this remains a basic win.

The TL;DR version: the broad beans get lost, omit them and fuck around with the tomato quantities.

Chorizo and broad bean pasta with tomatoes

So, to business.


Taking the pulse(s)

Delicious Magazine – which is occasionally interesting – publish a bunch of books. One of them – which is also occasionally interesting -, Five Of The Best, contains a rather nifty chickpea recipe. Now, chickpeas, and mercilessly desecrating vegetarian recipes have to be two of my favourite things. So here goes.

The original is a ten-minute sure-fire hit of a dish. Chickpeas in a kind of spicy pulp with wilted spinach, to which my first thought was to add toasted pine nuts – maybe pack it into generous timbales, bitter leaves or slices of mozzarella on the side, as a starter. But that’s because I’m a prick. More interesting is to add chorizo, maybe bacon, and definitely more faffing.

The dish requires chickpeas, spinach, bread, stock (chicken probably) spices, garlic, chorizo, and bacon. The quantities are fairly flexible. A couple hundred grams of spinach, and a thick-ish slice of bread per tin of chickpeas is about the shape of it. Then as much chorizo as you can pack into your craw without sustaining serious injury. But this is far more impressionistic than pernickety. It is also yet another victory for the “bacon is a garnish” lobby.

Use a couple of tins of chickpeas, rinsed, and if (as I did) you open a tin of butterbeans because you weren’t paying attention, one of those too. It actually worked – they go pleasingly smooshy. Which is a word. This is very much a dish of errors – the pulses were warmed through in a splash of stock, as I’d defrosted too much. Oh, it helped, but you can see how the simplicity would be eroded by much more of this shoddy tosh.

Wilt and shred rather a lot (say, 500g) of spinach, pressing dry, but not entirely so, and set aside. Fry some thinly sliced chorizo and bacon in just a little oil, placing the meat to one side with the spinach, and reserving the fat for the next step. Which is to fry three or four cloves of chopped or crushed garlic in the oil for a moment, before adding a teaspoon or so each of cumin and paprika, then frying cubes of bread until heading towards crispy. I guess any kind of bread would do, but ciabatta felt right; four thick slices off a fairly small one, here. Blend (ie food processor) the pan contents with about half a pint of strong stock, maybe a bit more, and stir everything together. That’s basically it.

You could ditch the bacon for some mexicanesque boiled-then-fried pork, making the stock along the way, but this version’s basically sound. I would advise warming the pulses through, at least, and doing this in residual stock is the perfect chance to toss in ore garlic and a couple of cloves. Care, however, should be taken not to let them break up overmuch. I don’t know what exactly you would serve with this. More ciabatta? A salad? I guess it could even become fajita filling. Being a twist on a warm salad, it would – as Former Housemate Ms B pointed out – make a mighty lunch in case of leftovers, warmed through or otherwise. Leftovers are, I humbly opine, unlikely.