A couple of weeks ago, my flatmate and I had a late night reminisce about high school. For both of us, it wasn’t a particularly positive chat: we were, predictably, a bit weird. But some of our biggest regrets were losing touch with the teachers we looked up to, the ones who imparted wisdom that wasn’t on the curriculum.
It’s strange, the things that stick with you. French and Spanish have both leaked from my memory now, verb formations jumbled beyond help; only nuggets of medical history remain; my hands no longer feel comfortable wrapped around a paintbrush. The lessons my teachers tried to give us are long forgotten, while fragments of conversation stick around.
The one that’s stuck with me the most came from my art teacher, a woman who encouraged us all indiscriminately and overlooked the fact that I occasionally sneaked supplies out of the classroom, inks and quills I still use now.
“You have to understand the rules before you can break them.”
I’m almost certain she wasn’t just talking about abstract art.
Sometimes, especially when it comes to baking, you just shouldn’t mess with a recipe. And other times you should look at the recipe, snort-laugh at the notion of using perfectly good alcohol to cook with rather than drink, and then mess with it entirely.
So it’s with great amusement that I write this, a recipe that would have Delia, patron saint of my hometown and writer of the original, tutting and shaking her head.
Her recipe calls for sherry. Mine calls for cheap lager, the kind you can get for a quid or less at the local corner shop, because I’m dead classy and don’t believe in wasting the good stuff.
But it also includes extra garlic, paprika, and, if you fancy it, chickpeas to give you a carb hit and an excellent source of zinc.
Sorry Delia, and thank you, Mrs H.
900g pork shoulder, fat trimmed off, cut into fairly large chunks
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 rounded tbsp plain flour
225g chorizo, skinned and cut into rounds
1 (400g) tin chopped tomatoes
300ml lager (I use Stella Artois)
2 bay leaves
Optional bits and bobs
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
75g pitted olives
200g chickpeas, drained and washed
1) Preheat oven to 170C. Heat roughly a tablespoon of olive oil in a large casserole dish (around 3.5l) and when hot, brown the pork chunks on all sides in batches, transferring to a plate when browned.
2) Remove the meat, add another tablespoon of oil and lower the heat slightly to soften the onions and garlic.
3) Return the pork to the dish and stir in the flour to soak up the juices. Add the chorizo, tomatoes, lager, paprika, and bay leaves, and bring it up to a simmer. Pop the lid on and transfer to the oven for one and a half hours, while you drink that sherry you haven’t wasted, or the leftover lager, if you’re that way inclined.
4) After the hour and a half, add any extras (peppers, olives, chickpeas) and return to the oven for a further half an hour. Serve in bowls.
Will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days.