Monday, 13 July 2009

Allegra's bigger than big chicken, pumpkin & borlotti beans

I've been watching British chef Allegra McEvedy at the Guardian for some time. When her book Leon: Ingredients and Recipes, came out, the Guardian did a series of excerpts, here, here and here and this recipe. Allegra's food is a lot like the woman (to judge by the blurb she gets in the first excerpt, above): bold, feisty and full of zest. I've made the chilli con carne, the meatballs and now this pumpkin, bean and chicken medley, and they've all been great. Good honest grub, with lots of inspiration from the places where food is sustenance for more than just the stomach. The sort of places that I visit a lot on this blog, and some others like Spain and Mexico, which I'm saving for a rainy day (g).

While this dish feels more autumn/winter, I made it on a warm spring day, and loved its bold, sassy flavours anyway. You do need the oven on, though, so this post is probably better timed for those in the Southern Hemisphere (Saffron Papa?).

You'll also need to marinate the chicken and get your beans soaking in the morning or even night before. And if you have a pressure cooker (and I think everyone needs at least one!), this is doable on a weeknight. If not, you might want to save it for the weekend. If you do use the pressure cooker, do not add the cooked beans in step 4 or they will disintegrate. Add them at the end with the pumpkin.

Oh and the book? Well I checked it out in Australia last Christmas, and its retro, homemade look and chummy tone totally won me over, but I'm sitting tight until it comes out in
paperback. I think Allegra's recipes will be appearing here from time to time, so I've given her her own tag. Welcome to my favourite food writers club, Allegra.

Allegra's bigger than big chicken, pumpkin and borlotti beans

Serves 4 (generously)

2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1½ tbsp clear honey
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
¾ tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
3 tsp extra virgin olive oil

500g boneless chicken thighs, cut into large dice
120g dried borlotti beans (or 1 x 400g tin, drained, added at the same point in the recipe)
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 medium leek, thickly sliced and washed well
500ml chicken stock
1 heaped tbsp chopped sage
250g pumpkin, peeled and cut into 4cm dice
salt and pepper

1 Put the vinegar, mustard, honey, chilli, garlic, fennel seed, oregano, bay leaves and olive oil into a dish and roll the chicken around in it Put into the fridge to marinade overnight. At the same time, soak the borlotti beans overnight in plenty of cold water.

2 Next day, drain the borlotti, cover with fresh water and simmer until cooked - about 1½ hours. [Saffron: Alternatively, place drained beans in a medium pressure cooker, cover with water and the perforated inner lid or rack (if your pressure cooker has one), to keep the beans down. Put the lid on and bring to pressure, then reduce the heat and cook for 2-2.5 min. Unseal straight away to prevent beans from overcooking.]

3 When the beans are pretty much cooked, fry the chicken with the marinade in a dry, medium hot, heavy-bottomed saucepan - you don't need any oil as it's already in the marinade.
Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally; be careful about it catching on the bottom of the pan - caramelising good, burning bad.

4 Preheat the oven to 210C/410F/gas mark 6½.
Add the tomatoes, leek, cooked drained beans [S: unless using a pressure cooker, in which case, add them with the pumpkin at the end], stock and sage to the chicken, stir well and simmer for about half an hour. [S: Alternatively, cook under low pressure for 7-10 min.]

5 Roll the pumpkin cubes in a little olive oil and some seasoning, lay them out on a baking tray and roast in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, shuffling them once - you want them to have a bit of colour.

6 Once the pumpkin is done turn the chicken off and stir the pumpkin into it. Add a generous splosh of great olive oil to finish - it's even better the next day.


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