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Warm and hearty, Portuguese Chicken and Cannellini bean stew

The weather has strongly influenced my cooking of late and the recent storms and power cuts have further guided that process. In my opinion, nothing beats a glorious spicy casserole on a cold dark stormy night. So, before I start writing what sounds like the beginning of a Victorian gothic novel, I present for your enjoyment, Portuguese Chicken and Cannellini bean stew.



The Suffolk Spice Company Portuguese mix is a rich blend of sweet noble paprika, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and a dash of hot chilli. These combine well to produce a distinctive palette of flavours to remind us of sunnier days and warm relaxing evenings. It is versatile enough to be used as a rub on meat (spatchcocked Portuguese chicken with sweet potatoes is a family favourite,) fish and prawns, dust it on roasted vegetables or as in this instance as a marinate for warming soups and stews.

This very easy and relatively quick recipe is ideal if you want something hearty and actually quite healthy without too much faff. It works on the stove top, in the oven or in a slow cooker. You can eat it the same day or leave it overnight and warm it through the following day. In both cases, served with velvety smooth buttery mashed potatoes, you will not be disappointed.


So to business. This recipe was designed for a family of 4, including 2 hearty eating teenage boys, so in reality, 4-6 people. However, if there are just the two of you, do not miss this opportunity to make up the full recipe and freeze half for another time. Nothing is so delightful as realising you have something glorious saved for a rainy day in the freezer.



Ingredients: Serves 4 -6

4 chicken breasts (skinless)

1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained

2 red peppers, deseeded and thinly sliced

1 onion, finely chopped

75g of good quality chorizo, diced

1 Tbsp tomato puree

2 Tbsp Suffolk Spice Company Portuguese mix

2 Tbsp of olive oil


Method:

This stew could not be simpler to put together. First, consider which cooking method you are going to use for this dish. This will dictate what pot/pan you use. If you are going to use a slow cooker, then the initial cooking can be done in a deep frying pan and transferred to the slow cooker later. If however, you are doing this on the stove top or in the oven, as I did, you will need a heavy casserole with a lid.


To work!


Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces (en morceaux) and place them in a large bowl with the Portuguese spice mixture. Toss them around until the meat is liberally coated in the spice. Cover the

bowl with a clean piece of kitchen roll leave the meat to get to know the spices for around ½ hour. Now at this point you may think two things.

1. Do I add oil to the meat? No, let the natural juices of the chicken act as the conduit for the spices.

2. Isn’t that a lot of spice? Yes and no. Yes it is, but this cooking process can handle that and the end result, although having some heat, will not be overpowering, more warming. So no, it isn’t too much, which was probably the tone of the original question. Trust me, it works.




Now in your large pot, add the oil and chorizo. Cook on a medium heat until the oil begins to colour with the chorizo’s juices. Add the onions and cook gently on the same medium heat until they begin to soften. You don’t really want too much colour on those onions.



Once your onion base is just right, add the chicken and spices from the bowl. Stir everything around and get it all combined well. Gently cook the chicken for about 10 minutes, just enough to colour the pieces here and there but not too much, you don’t want a tough exterior. The idea with this is that the chicken falls apart in you mouth with all that wonderful spice and flavour. (Hungry yet?) At this point I generally had a splash of water just to deglaze and ensure the pan doesn’t catch and also to help with the next stage.



Add the tomato puree and stir well. Add the peppers and turn everything over in the mix for a couple of minutes so that the peppers begin to soften just a bit. Next goes in the tomatoes and ½ a tin of water used to wash around the tin. Add the beans and stir well. Bring the stew to a gentle bubble with the lid off for 5 minutes.




At this stage, if you are using one, transfer the stew to the slow cooker and if need be add a little more water to ensure the meat is covered in juices. Cook it long and slow.

If you are staying with the casserole pot then you can either turn the heat right down on the stove and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally, or simply put the pot in a moderate oven, 170 C for 45 minutes.

In all instances, make sure the stew doesn’t dry out, check every now and then and add a little more water if required. In addition, this checking process will drive you mad wanting to tuck in. Patience. Make sure the chicken is cooked through when you finally take it out of the oven and serve with mashed potatoes and a good hunk of sourdough bread. I would recommend Wooster’s seeded loaves in this instance, takes some beating.


Now at this point, I would have added a glorious photo of the stew resting invitingly in a nest of sumptuous, buttery smooth mashed potato accompanied by a rich full bodied red wine, but alas the power went off for 15 hours and although I wast still able to cook my final meal and enjoy a romantic candle lit dinner with my beloved Julie, the photo opportunity never really presented itself. Next time perhaps?


And there you have it, spicy Portuguese Chicken and bean stew.


Enjoy.

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