Hmmm, apparently me concentrating really really hard does not make it get any warmer. Whoulda thunk, eh?!! So, just in case anyone thought that the reason it's been chilly is because I've been slacking off, actually no, I've been getting up every morning thinking that surely it has to be warmer today - but to no avail. It appears that we have to sit this one out, and be patient until things heat up out there. There is, of course, the positive angle of all those lovely warm-making clothes that you get to wear in this weather. And how, oh how, could we forget the immense warmth to be derived from stew-y type concoctions, rich in flavour and only appropriate at this time of year? The only thing about such dishes is that they tend to require a big old spell in a pot while one whiles away the time at other activities until the occasion comes to eat, generally a period of at least a couple of hours. If the timespan involved is a source of frustration to you, as it certainly is to me, then listen up because I have a dish that delivers these rich qualities in about three quarters of an hour, and the texture is such that you won't feel hard done by if you can't be bothered with a carby side offering. It's lentil and chorizo stew, a dish that offers saintliness and sinliness in one time-pressed, winter-friendly package.
I first encountered this little treasure when I was going through a phase of doing Bikram yoga. I would come home fairly late in the evening, absolutely starving, looking for a substantial meal that I could cook myself fairly quickly. On a very quick tangent - Bikram: no. Like, great for a speedy tone up, but after a couple of months, it becomes incredibly dull, not to mention disgustingly unhygenic (carpet? on the floor of a yoga studio where there is a constant flow of people sweating profusely in forty degree heat throughout the day?! REALLY?!!) and there was a steady drip of cult-like pseudo-scientific claims about the benefits of the practice that began to grate on my nerves. Then there is the hilarious price of the classes. But while my Bikram days are well over, never to return, this gem of a stew has stayed with me. I got it from that Kitchen Revolution cookbook that came out a few years ago, based on weekly meal plans that supply grocery lists and guide your cooking in order to eliminate food waste and make feeding your household as cost-effective as possible. While this involves levels of planning and predictability that make me run for the hills, it is packed out with great recipes. Like this stew! First step is chopping 2 onions, softening them in some olive oil for about ten minutes, and then adding some sliced chorizo (3-4 10cm sausages) and 75g diced pancetta, cooking that little lot for 3-4 minutes.
After that you add a tin of chopped tomatoes, 3 chopped cloves of garlic and 250ml red wine. As I am not particularly inclined to have a bottle of red lying about the house, I just grabbed one of those cheapie wee bottles from Lidl for less than €2 which did the trick nicely.
Now, the recipe specifies piquillo peppers, but also says that any peppers that are in oil from a can or jar will do. ANY excuse for a jar of Peppadews, mmmmmm. It also says 4-5 - I started just turfing them in there and completely lost count. Knock yourself out, I say. You'll also need either three cans of lentils or 350g dry lentils, cooked. Much as I tried to go the lazy route on this one, I just couldn't get my hands on canned lentils, and had to *gasp* actually cook them myself. And hey, guess what - it didn't kill me!
Those beauties go into the chorizo mix along with 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder, as well as a little water, and it all needs to simmer away for about 20 minutes. The perfect length of time for legging it to the shower to wash off the disgustingness of sweating for an hour and a half in a stuffy room!
And it will surprise you, this flavoursome bowl of heat, the speed with which is manages to taste so full-bodied is impressive.
So if, like me, you have been earnestly willing temperatures to rise, give it up as a bad job and adopt this as your new favourite heat-creating device instead. It won't let you down.