I didn’t encounter chorizo until I left home. And even then, for years it was just a slightly exotic scarlet salami you’d buy in Sainsburys. Never the less, I cooked with it, making red beans and rice or scissoring fleshy slivers into a tomato sauce.
And then, on my 23rd birthday I got taken to Moro, Sam and Sam Clarke’s Iberian-cum-Moorish restaurant in London’s Exmouth Market and had my first real chorizo. My first bite was smoky, spicy, piquant, eye-popping doesn’t even come close. I thought I knew what chorizo was. I was wrong.
It was also Moro, via their first cook book (which I’ve always used more as a reference and inspiration rather than straight-forward cookbook), that I was introduced to butter beans. Which I bought, together with the sausage, from Brindisa, then right next to the restaurant. They’re soft and creamy, the perfect foil to the intense sausage.
Now, thanks to the two Sams, chorizo is a continuous presence in my fridge. It’s great in stews, with rice or simply grilled and scoffed, slightly guiltily, by the cooker. A culinary everyman.
This dish pairs it with those butter beans (tinned because I’m too lazy and unprepared to use dried), cherry tomatoes and sweet soft onions. The result is warm and soothing, the beans, tomatoes and onion slithering over your tongue like a spicy drape, parting to reveal spicy nuggets of sausage.
The key to this unctuousness, this slow-releasing explosion of flavour is not to rush. Make sure you cook the onions for at least ten minutes before you do anything else, and never bringing the sauce far above a simmer.
You’re rewarded with a soothing but supremely flavoursome, supper for an autumnal work night. Or a relatively quick Saturday lunch, or a midnight snack, even an unusual breakfast. Actually it’s pretty damn good for any occasion. Like chorizo.
Chorizo, butter beans and tomatoes
Feeds 2 as a main, 4-6 as a mezze/tapas dish
2 hot (piquante) chorizo sausages – sliced into rounds
1 onion – finely chopped
Half a red pepper – finely sliced
Small punnet of cherry tomatoes – halved
A bunch of spinach – washed thoroughly
A small handful of fresh coriander leaves – roughly chopped
1 tin butter beans
Half a lemon
1 clove garlic – very finely sliced
A glug of red wine
EV olive oil
A tsp or so of za’atar
Heat a few glugs of the olive oil in a wide shallow pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook slowly for 10-15 minutes until it turns translucent, stirring from time to time. Add the red pepper and cook for another five minutes.
Throw in the chorizo and continue cooking for five minutes until the sausage starts to brown and releases its oil. Add the garlic, stir a couple of times and pour in a glug of red wine. Leave to boil away almost entirely.
Add the tomatoes and for about ten minutes, squashing them slightly to release the juices. This should leave you with a thick sauce. Stir in the butter beans, add a squeeze of lemon and a few grinds of black pepper. Turn the heat right down, cover and simmer for ten minutes while you cook the spinach.
Put the spinach in a small saucepan, cover tightly and cook for five to six minutes, or until cooked. Remove and chop, then add to the bean and chorizo mix. Cook for another five minutes.
Serve with a scattering of coriander leaves, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of za-atar.