I love a good stew – who doesn’t? They’re comforting, they’re full of flavour, and you usually get plenty of leftovers to use in another meal.
The best thing, is that once the initial prep is done, you can leave it alone for however long it takes and do your own thing, rather than having to constantly stir/turn/mix. This should give you time to finish any remaining wine, or chat to your friends, or watch an episode of Grand Designs. All cornerstones of a wonderful evening at home – then you get a hearty meal at the end of it!
I decided to go with a chicken stew, a French style one usually called ‘Coq au Vin (chicken in wine), and based it on a reliable Nigel Slater recipe. However, to keep things interesting, I decided to add my own twists. Instead of bacon or pancetta I used chorizo, and instead of Cognac I used Madeira wine (I needed a reason to open it) – so my casserole is a bit Eurovision rather than the typical traditional French recipe.
I also used a South African red wine that was on special offer at the Co-op rather than some full-bodied French classic; my opinion being that if a wine is that good, it should be drunk, not simmered in a pan for an hour.
So, you will need:
a whole chicken
200g chorizo (use bacon, lardons or pancetta if you prefer)
3 medium onions
1 large carrot
2 ribs of celery
4 cloves of garlic
2 tbsps flour
2 tbsps Madeira wine (or you could use Cognac, or sherry)
a bottle of red wine
few small sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
12 shallots, peeled
200g small mushrooms
Firstly, cut off the different joints from the chicken – legs, breasts etc – set these aside for the moment. Put the remaining chicken carcass into a deep pan, cover with water, add one of the onions (peeled), a handful of peppercorns and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer – you’ll use this for stock later.
Cut the chorizo into chunks, cook on a medium heat in the casserole pot you are using – once the oils have seeped out transfer the chorizo on to a plate for a moment, then cook the chicken joints in the oil, adding in the butter too (this will all give you a lovely rich base for the sauce later!). Once the chicken has browned (you particularly want it to get a good colouring on the skin), also move this on to the plate.
Now chop up the remaining onions and carrot and chuck them in to the oil. Then chop the garlic and celery and add this in after a few minutes. After a couple more minutes, return the chicken and chorizo to the pan and stir in the flour.
Once you’ve stirred it all around and allowed it to cook for a couple more minutes, pour on the Madeira wine, red wine and chuck in the thyme sprigs, shallots and mushrooms. Spoon in ladles of the simmering chicken stock until all of the chicken is covered. Now cover with a lid and leave to simmer.
At this point you can choose to steam or boil your potatoes and maybe mash them, or cook some rice, or just chop up some nice bread to mop up the sauce. After 40 minutes the chicken will be cooked and you can serve as you see fit; super tasty, and your kitchen will smell heavenly. C’est superb. Santé!