Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Back-of-the-fridge dinners


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Sunday is when I run errands. I start early at the flower market, then on to Fabrique to pick up some bread for the week and a couple of cardamom buns for Sunday tea, next The Turkish Food Centre on Ridley Road for yoghurt, feta, olives, spices and finally - nearly home - the greengrocers’ for big bunches of herbs, fruit and veg. Sorry if this is beginning to sound a bit Goop. I warn you it’s not going to get much better. If it helps, you would almost certainly be horrified at the state of my jump-out-of-bed-and-get-going fashion stylin’.

To make room for all of the fresh stuff, on Saturday I rummage through the fridge and cupboards for anything that needs using up. Ends of cheese, wilting half heads of celery, softening spinach, dairy leaping over its sell-by date, olives lurking at the bottom of tubs, a remembrance of drinks parties past, everything short of a biohazard ends up in salads, soups, casseroles or pies. There is a pleasing randomness to Saturday night tea at our house. Here is this weekend’s experiment.

Saturday night chorizo and fennel

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A few slightly vintage chorizo sausages, some bulbs of less-than-perky fennel, a bendy leek and a stick of celery I could almost certainly have wrapped into a bow if I’d so desired were the inspiration for this supper. Take your time browning the fennel and softening the onions – it really adds to the flavour. If I’d had some feta lurking at the back of the fridge, I’d have crumbled that over the top at the end too.

Serves 4

3 bulbs of fennel
A few tablespoons of olive oil
250g cooking chorizo, cut into 4cm chunks
3 onions, finely diced
1 leek, white and pale green part only, finely sliced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 red chilli, finely minced – remove the membrane and seeds if you like a milder flavour
2 teaspoons ground cumin
200ml white wine
100ml red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato purée
400g tin chopped tomatoes or whole cherry tomatoes
400ml chicken stock
Small bunch of parsley, tough stalks removed, finely chopped
Small bunch of coriander, tough stalks removed, finely chopped
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Trim any brown bits off the fennel and save any fronds to finish the dish. Cut each bulb into 6-8 wedges lengthways, depending on its size. Keep the root and core intact so the wedges hold together.

Warm a splash of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed casserole over a medium heat and sauté the chunks of chorizo until they take on a bit of colour then remove them to a bowl with tongs or a slotted spoon – you want to leave enough of the nice, red, spicy fat in the pan to fry everything else. Raise the heat a bit and put the fennel wedges into the same pan. Sauté on both sides until they take on some colour. You’ll have to do this in a couple of batches. As each wedge is done, put it in the bowl with the chorizo.

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Make sure to get the fennel nice and golden.

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I love these tinned tomatoes.

When you’ve cooked all the chorizo and fennel, lower the heat and tip the onions and leek into the same pan. Add a pinch of salt and cook, stirring from time to time, until very soft, about 30 minutes. Add the celery and sauté for a further 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chilli and cumin and sauté, stirring, for a minute. Pour in the wine and vinegar and simmer quite hard until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the tomato purée, chicken stock and tinned tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the reserved chorizo and fennel, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes until the fennel is very tender. Simmer, uncovered, for a further 5-10 minutes until thickened slightly. Season, stir in the coriander, parsley and any reserved fennel fronds and serve.

9 comments:

  1. LOve this! I must come over one Sat night xx

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  2. We were only just musing about back-of-the-fridge suppers yesterday, so this is very timely. The trouble is, nobody's back-of-fridge resembles anybody else's! I lack a wilting fennel bulb in this case, but it looks as though this is a meal which even justifies a trip to the shops.

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  3. My husband's favourite meals are 'beggar's banquets'. This is a fabulous looking feast.

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  4. Lovely lovely lovely. Must try those tomatoes too. xx

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  5. Vic, You really MUST. We'd love that. X
    Margaret, Well I do hope you enjoy it. The beauty of recipes like these is you can vary them according to what you have hanging about.
    Debs, I love the phrase 'beggar's banquets'. I've never heard it before but I'm totally stealing it.
    Louise, They are so good and sweet and they keep their shape too even through long cooking, which I like.

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  6. I do my grocery shopping Friday evenings, so Friday dinner is always an "everything must go" meal...usually some kind of sauce created from all the left over about to be off veg.

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  7. AGCR, And I bet it's good too.

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  8. Scronf. I call this sort of dinner (ditto the ones where you basically frolic through the fridge to create a picnic) 'Many Treasures'.

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  9. Fi, I LOVE 'many treasures', see also Debs's 'beggar's banquets' above. Also, anything that involves frolicking certainly gets my vote.

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