Swarthy Chicken in 2016

 

Swarthy chicken is a family classic, but over the years it has evolved.  For a while, I was queen of this dish.  These days, my husband, Henry Jeffreys, is king.

Though I have always loved cooking, my abilities drastically improved when Henry entered my life.  In many ways, he taught me how to cook.  He taught me that it was not only wasteful to discard the carcass of a roast chicken, but also a shame as it makes such delicious stock.  Most of the pasta sauces I make are versions of his.  Same with my savoury pies.  I’ll admit I never even made gravy until he showed me how.

The first time I visited him in London, he made a rolled shoulder of lamb stuffed with anchovies, garlic, capers, parsley, and lemon.  He served it with a bottle of Rioja Reserva. Immediately I fell in love and then into a food coma.   But I digress. . .

Below is his recipe for swarthy chicken which is reminiscent of barbecue due to all that smoky paprika.  If you enjoy it, do check out his World of Booze and also his book, Empire of Booze, which comes out this November.

 

henry

My wife and I have been making this recipe now for about six years. At one point it was a sort of Moroccan thing with preserved lemons, olives and cinnamon but gradually it has morphed into the recipe below. It’s extremely easy to make. The magic of the dish is in the mix of crispy and gooey. The chicken skins must be crisp and the vegetables need to be slightly charred in places. It’s best to use smoked paprika as it gives the dish a BBQ flavour. Oh and a word about the wine at the end. You want something dry but with lots of flavour. Fino sherry won’t cut the mustard. Waitrose own label Palo Cortado works well, Noilly Prat vermouth also good. The best is a Marsala Vergine such as Terre Arse if you can find it. It doesn’t seem to make any difference whether you marinade the chicken for an hour or overnight. This is a recipe that never fails to lift my spirits.

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Ingredients:

Chicken pieces – I used 4 thighs and 2 legs from a specially bred mutant chicken.

2 heaped teaspoons of smoked paprika

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 small onions sliced

2 red peppers sliced

6 cloves of garlic in skin

Small glass of dry sherry

Lots of salt and pepper

 

Options:

If I have fresh thyme in the house, I’ll add some leaves to the marinade.

Ditto with a little chopped parsley at the end.

 

Method: Put the chicken, paprika, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, olive oil, lots salt and pepper in a plastic bowl and mix thoroughly until chicken completely coated in the mixture. Leave for at least an hour.

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Pre-heat oven to gas mark 7.

Take the chicken pieces out and place in large glass dish. Put the onions, garlic cloves and peppers in the plastic bowl and mix them around to get the last of the spicy sauce out. Strew the vegetables around the chicken pieces. You want edges of the onions and peppers to get a little charred. Add a bit more salt and pepper to the vegetables.

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Heat in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until skin begins to crisp. Give the vegetables a good mix in the juices, turn oven down to gas mark 3 and leave for an hour. Take out and have a look at the dish. The chicken should be crispy, the vegetables gooey and charred in places (if they’re not, turn the oven up a little.) Add a glass of sherry and put back in the oven for 10 minutes.

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Take out and serve with boiled rice. Don’t forget to smash the now gooey garlic out of its skin and into the rich sauce.

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Goulash

When I was a child, I thought I hated goulash.  Part of the reason was that goulashes made me think of galoshes so how tasty could they be?  The other reason was that I had never tasted an authentic goulash.  You see in America, more often than not, goulash consists of ground beef, elbow macaroni, a box of lasagne flavored Hamburger Helper, and is then topped with the blandest of bright orange cheese.  From sea to shining sea, it is a dish that screams church potluck.

These days I know the truth about goulash.  1) It is insanely delicious.  2) It is not even vaguely Italian.  3) Paprika makes the dish, both the sweet and the spicy smoked stuff.  4) Its origins trace back to the 9th century stews of Hungarian herdsmen.

After several trips to the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, my favorite of all the defunct empires, I have have learned to cook a pretty mean goulash.  And after a quick jaunt to Budapest last September, I am now stocked up to the hilt with hot paprika (and little wooly toys like Teddy Goulash that my daughter begged for at the Great Market Hall).

Whenever I use my paprika, I can’t help but think of that scene in “Love in the Afternoon” where Gary Cooper has a Romany orchestra play “Hot Paprika” over and over while he tries to extinguish the flames of jealousy.  Below is my goulash recipe.  I hope it’s one you enjoy over and over, especially when it’s galoshes weather (but also when it’s not).

Mom's Danube sunset Teddy Goulash

Ingredients:

1 kg stewing steak, generously seasoned with salt and pepper

4 bell peppers, cut into pieces the same size as your beef (I like to use a combination of colors, but do what you like. Traditional goulash doesn’t call for them at all.  They’re only a modern addition.)

4 medium sized onions, peeled and quartered

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tbsp sweet paprika

1 tbsp spicy smoked paprika

1 400g can of diced tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato paste

500ml beef stock + 1 cup of water

3 bay leaves

vegetable oil, salt, pepper

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas3/170°C/325°F.

In a large ovenproof pot, heat a tablespoon or two of oil.  Add the stewing steak and cook on high until brown all over but not cooked through.

Add the onions and cook until soft.

Stir in the garlic.

Add both paprikas, the stock, the water, the tomatoes, the tomato paste, and the bay leaves.  Bring to a simmer.

Cover the pot with a lid and transfer it to the oven.  Let it cook undisturbed for an hour and a half.

Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the bell peppers.  Place the pot back in the oven for another hour and a half.  After this time, it will be ready to eat.

While the goulash is delicious by itself, I like to serve it with spaetzle or egg noodles.  I also like to add sour cream and parsley.

sweet paprika spicy smoked paprika

plate of goulash

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Ungeheuer Chili

If the French invaded Ireland but the Irish really invited them in and then they all celebrated with chili.  This is a culinary anschluss of epic proportion.

Ingredients:

2 large onions, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

olive oil/vegetable oil

3 teaspoons ground cumin

1 tablespoons dried oregano

3 bay leaves

1 kilogram ground beef

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

3 teaspoons cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons malt vinegar

6 tablespoons tomato concentrate

2x400ml cans chopped plum tomatoes

2x400ml cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 pint Guinness Stout

1/2 cup Bordeaux

salt and pepper

Grated cheese, Greek yogurt and hot sauce to serve.  My favorite is Red Rooster Louisiana.  Also, I think this chili tastes best over basmati rice.

Method:

Gently fry the onions in a couple tablespoons of oil in a large heavy saucepan until the onions have softened.  Add the garlic and saute for another minute.  Stir in the ground cumin, oregano, bay leaves, some salt and pepper, and cook for another minute.  Add a drop more oil and the ground beef.  Break up the clods of meat with a wooden spoon.  Stir through and brown the meat all over.  Mix the smoked paprika and cayenne pepper in the malt vinegar.  Stir this concoction into your seasoned meat.  Squeeze in and stir through the tomato concentrate.  After another minute, add the kidney beans, tomatoes, Guinness, Bordeaux and more salt to taste.  Bring all this to a bubble.  Once the bubble gets going, transfer your saucepan to a very low heat and braise for the next 2 to 2.5 hours.  Keep monitoring the chili during this time.  Be sure to stir it.  If it looks as if all the liquid is disappearing just add more Bordeaux.  Let cool a bit and season to taste.