I’ve been “off-line” for quite a while …..having a bit of an adventure. Well, a bit of a cooking frenzy, really. I’ve discovered the joys of terracotta cooking!
And these words spring to mind: LOW, SLOW, VERSATILE, and VERY PRETTY.
Terracotta cookware holds a slow, steady heat, allowing foods to cook gently and evenly and food continues to cook even after you remove the pot from its heat source.
Good quality, properly seasoned terracotta cookware can be used in place of a skillet or frypan, a sauté pan, and a casserole dish. How versatile is that?
And, when the cooking’s all done, it really looks the part on the table. Bring your lovely pot to the table and wait for the compliments. Not only does the food look and taste great, the clay will retain its heat and keep the seconds warm. Impressive?
Well, I’m seriously impressed. Terracotta cookware can be found in every Spanish kitchen and Spanish cuisine is increasing popular, so let’s embrace some of their traditional cooking methods and techniques!
I’ve been doing a bit of research, so look out for a post on Terracotta Cooking in the Techniques category. And look out for lots more recipes from the Spanish kitchen!
SPANISH CHICKEN – TERRACOTTA STYLE
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
(Serves 2 – double up the quantities for 4)
Chicken: 500g leg & thigh, or thigh pieces (not breast meat)
Olive oil: ½ tablespoon (not extra virgin)
Onion: 1 small – medium (at least 120g, prepared)
Celery: 1 stick (at least 50g, prepared)
Garlic: 1 fat clove
Red pepper: 1 medium or ½ large
Butternut squash: ½ large (approx 350g, prepared)
Chopped tomatoes: 1.2 400g tin
Paprika: 1 heaped teaspoon
Smoked paprika: 1 teaspoon
Ground cinnamon: ½ teaspoon
Red chilli flakes: good pinch, or to taste
Black Olives: 4 -6
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Flat-leaf parsley: Good handful
A lidded terracotta pot, large enough for 2-4 persons & a heat diffuser.
WHAT YOU DO
1. Firstly, prepare your mis-en-place: Peel and finely slice the onion, celery and garlic. De-seed and slice the red pepper into 1cm thick slices. Peel and cut the butternut into 2cm dice. Measure out the two paprikas, cinnamon, and chilli separately onto a small plate. De-stone and roughly chop the olives. Set aside.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 140 degs (fan oven) or Mark 2 (gas) and soak your chosen terracotta pot and lid in warm water for 5 mins.
3. Place a heat diffuser over a COLD gas ring or hot plate (see Techniques: Terracotta Cooking). Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil slowly in the terracotta pot on a slow/medium heat. When the pot and oil are hot, increase the heat to medium and saute the chicken pieces, right-side down until well browned (put the lid on to prevent the fat splashing everywhere – this may take several minutes, so don’t move them about too much or they’ll start cooking rather than browning).
4. When nicely browned, remove the chicken from the pot and drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat. Lower the heat and add the onion, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, cover with a cartouche and sweat the veg (see: Techniques) over a low heat until translucent but still firm. Remove the cartouche, add in the red peppers and butternut, turn up the heat and saute until the veg is just beginning to brown at the edges. Check the seasoning.
5. Add in your measured spices, chopped tomatoes and mix everything well. Place the chicken pieces and olives on top of the veg and tuck in a couple of sprigs of parsley. Season again, and tuck a disc of foil over the dish before placing on the lid. This step is optional but it will ensure your cooked dish is really succulent.
6. Place in the oven and increase the heat to 180 degs (fan) or Mark 5 (gas) and for 30 mins. Reduce the heat back to 140 degs (fan oven) or Mark 2 (gas) and cook until the meat is falling off the bone (maybe another 1.5 hours, but check a couple of times).
7. Serve with a side of Chickpea, Carrot & Parsley Mash, and a cold beer!