I’m so ready for Autumn. I’ve got a bunch of hearty dishes that I want to try, not to mention a beautiful new turquoise coat that it’s been too hot to wear. Today it finally felt like Autumn had arrived so I wanted to post the first of a few dishes that will warm the cockles.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally managed to give a long overdue ‘thank you' dinner for my “Nightingales” (as in Florence). The Nightingales are three incredible women who nursed me back to health after I had my tonsils removed last year. I won’t go into the gory details but I really needed help and the three of them were absolutely amazing. They rallied a group of friends, sat with me and arranged scheduled visits with strict instructions to the point that our friend Hal renamed them "The Gatekeepers." This year, during another tough time, I discovered they had all been back in touch with each other to once again work their healing magic.
So how to begin thanking three people who have cared for me like family and feel like sisters? I’m not sure they’ll ever know how grateful I am but I thought an evening with all of us where we weren’t discussing medical issues might be a good start. And what to cook? Selfishly, I wanted to be part of the fun so it had to be something that was all done ahead of time and I’m not brave enough to risk something new. I’m a big believer in having as much as possible ready before guests arrive so you can enjoy the evening too. No last minute flambéing for me! An old classic it would have to be; one that would conveniently let me use up packs of Rancho Gordo beans and Schaller & Weber Chorizo left over from testing.
I’ve been making this Lamb and Chorizo Stew with Royal Corona Beans which I've adapted from the Dean & Deluca Cookbook for years and it’s great for a big group and stays true to the Nigel Slater philosophy of a successful dinner having the focus on the people and not the food. A large casserole with a big salad and hunks of bread seems to usually do the trick.
So a big shout out to great friends and friendship which as corny as it sounds are, in my opinion, what make the world go round.
Lamb and Chorizo Stew with Royal Corona Beans
8 tablespoons of olive oil
3lbs of boneless leg of lamb (ask your butcher to cut it into 1”cubes)
1lb of chorizo cut into 1/2 “ slices – you may need to peel the chorizo first.
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2/3 cup of red wine
3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
1 ½ cups of beef stock
2 cups of canned plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups of cooked royal corona beans
1 teaspoon arrow root (optional)
1. Heat half the oil in a large Dutch oven and sauté the chorizo until it’s brown on both sides.
2. Add the onions and garlic and reduce heat so that they sweat and become translucent.
3. Remove everything from the pan and set aside – I use the lid of the casserole dish upturned next to the stove.
4. Add the rest of the olive oil and heat.
5. Add the lamb in batches and brown thoroughly. Don’t overcrowd the pan as the meat will steam rather than get that nice crust that keeps all the flavor in.
6. As each batch is browned, you can add to the chorizo and onions.
7. When there’s no lamb left, you can put everything back in the pan along with all the juices that have collected.
8. Increase the heat and add the wine and vinegar whilst scraping the bottom of the pan.
9. Add the stock, paprika and tomatoes along with their juices and season.
10. Bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
11. Cover partially and let cook for at least 1 ½ hours.
12. Remove lid and cook until sauce begins to thicken and lamb is tender. Approximately 45 mins.
13. Add beans, stir and heat through.
14. If the sauce is still too thin, add a teaspoon of arrow root dissolved in a little water and bring stew to the boil. This will thicken the sauce in just a few minutes without affecting the flavor.
15. Check for seasoning and serve with French bread and a large salad.
Cooking dried beans: It is, in fact, one of The Nightingales who taught me how to cook dried beans. Bring the beans to a boil in a large pot of cold water. Add a handful of salt, cover and turn the heat off. Let them soak as long as possible – I did overnight. Rinse the beans and replace with fresh water before bringing to a low simmer and cooking for at least an hour until beans are ready. You can add more salt when you’re cooking and other aromatics.