Child’s play: simple January supper

Categories: Expert guidance

We all need some dishes in our repertoire that are, quite simply, child’s play—dishes with no shopping list, no recipe, that can almost be thrown together with your eyes closed. In this series, Jenny Chandler gives directions and cooking tips for fabulous seasonal meals that a 10-year-old could throw together. This time: chorizo and chickpeas and a citrus salad with rosemary syrup

Store cupboard standby dishes are an absolute boon when the weather’s foul and you don’t feel like venturing out to the shops, so my shelves are always well stocked with tinned pulses—superbly versatile ingredients that end up in all manner of hearty soups and stews.

Top of the bill, and a dish that can be thrown together in minutes, is that fabulously Spanish combination of smoky chorizo and chickpeas. True ‘cocido’, the Iberian pork and pulse classic, is all about hours of gentle simmering while this speedy, non-traditional version will have supper on the table for 4 in about 20 mins.

Chorizo and chickpea stew

Chorizo and chickpeas
Kick off with a large saucepan, frying a diced onion in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over a low flame until soft and sweet. Meanwhile, chop up about 250g chorizo; this may be a mild or spicy sausage, hard-cured, or a softer version sold in vacuum packs (Brindisa has a marvellous selection to suit every taste). They all have a great shelf life if kept in the fridge. I like to dice, rather than slice, the chorizo so that it breaks down into the dish rather than leaving little leathery disks of meat.

Stir the sausage into the onions over a medium flame and once the fat renders, covering everything in fabulous paprika-red juices, it’s time to add a couple of cans of drained chickpeas. Warm the chickpeas through and you already have a perfectly delicious, super-simple supper, though you might like to take the dish a bit further.

Canned tomatoes and a bay leaf can be thrown in along with the chickpeas and simmered for 10 min, as can a glass of red wine and a handful of raisins. Cider and thyme is another option, or a large handful of spinach or chard stirred through and then steamed (lid on pan) until the leaves have collapsed. The dish can be a brothy, soupy number with the addition of stock or just piled up as is on a slice of sourdough toast. Whichever way you go, this is winter comfort eating at its best.

Citrus fruits

Citrus salad with rosemary syrup
When it comes to puddings, it’s not always the moment for jam roly-poly; a sharp, fresh dessert often balances better with heavier seasonal mains. Citrus fruit comes into its own in the winter. Blood oranges make their arrival in January, joining all the clementines, mandarins, navel oranges and my favourite, ruby grapefruit. It’s fun to scour the Market for exotic varieties of citrus—you might even find nadorcotts (a type of mandarin) or mineolas (a grapefruit/tangerine cross). Tasting them all, one against another, is fascinating.

Citrus fruit salad is always a winner if you’re as lazy as we are. Oranges can languish in the fruit bowl for weeks but once peeled, and perhaps even segmented into a bowl, they’re gone in a second.

Pick at least 5 different varieties of citrus fruit, peel and slice (or segment) them using a serrated knife, reserving the juice. Now arrange the fruit in a shallow bowl and warm the juice in a small pan with a sprig of rosemary (and a little sugar if it seems particularly tart)—just 5 mins will do the trick. Remove the rosemary, leave to cool and then tip the perfumed juice over the fruit. Any leftovers will be perfect on top of porridge or pancakes in the morning.