Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Sobrasada: a spicy delight for meat lovers

When my in-laws first came to visit from Menorca, among other local goodies, they brought a sobrasada sausage. I'm a fan of all things meaty and it was my first experience of this Balearic delicacy: a versatile cured pork sausage with a good kick of paprika. I hadn't tasted anything quite like it before and really loved it. The picture below shows the picant version, with its red string, whereas the regular dolç version has a white string (see above).

Recently I finally got to visit Menorca and we enjoyed sobrasada with my in-laws who served it sliced with drinks. We also had it spread on small bocadillo rolls as a lunchtime snack – this is particularly tasty as some of the peppery oil leeches into the spongy white bread.

I was also keen to bring some back to London to try out in a recipe I'd noticed in Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escapes where sobrasada appears melted into a tomatoey sauce. The results were great: tasty chicken and vegetables with a spicy, well textured sauce. Lots of fresh, lively flavours. As in the recipe, we used chicken breasts, but next time I will use thighs instead and cook them for longer. (I'm not convinced about the breasts as they always seem dry and lacking in flavour.)

Chicken with sobrasada, courgettes and butter beans

100g dried butter beans, soaked overnight (or 225g butter beans from a tin or jar, drained and rinsed)
300ml tomato sauce (see below)
4 free-range chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
a good pinch of crushed dried chillies
75g sobrasada, sliced
350g courgettes, trimmed and sliced diagonally
a small handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tomato sauce
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes (or 1kg fresh ripe tomatoes)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serves 4

If using soaked, dried beans, drain and tip them into a pan. Cover with fresh cold water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 25 minutes, until almost tender. Add half a teaspoon of salt and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so until tender. Drain and set aside.

Make the tomato sauce. Gently heat the olive oil, add the garlic and cook until just colouring. Tip in the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Left-over tomato sauce can be frozen and is ideal served with pasta, grated parmesan and a few torn basil leaves.

Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook for 5 minutes over a medium heat until golden brown. Turn over and cook for another 5 minutes. Move the chicken to the side of the pan and add the chilli flakes and sobrasada, and allow the sobrasada to melt into the oil.

Turn the chicken over in the now spicy oil until well coated, then reduce the heat, scatter over the courgettes, cover and leave to simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Uncover the pan, add the butter beans and tomato sauce, re-cover and simmer for a further 5 minutes until the beans are heated through.

Scatter with chopped parsley and serve. (We had ours with some plain boiled rice.)

Wine recommendation

This dish is absolutely perfect for showing off a decent Rioja. I was amazed how well paprika goes with this type of wine – it melds beautifully with Rioja's sweet, smoky oak. Try this for yourself by nibbling some spicy chorizo while sipping a glass of even quite straightforward Rioja such as Crianza or a young Reserva. Wonderful.

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