When I moved to London, I had to familiarize myself with a whole new vocabulary. There are the obvious words, like “lorry” and “lift” and “loo.” There are the naughty words and swear words, which I won’t list here since this is a family-friendly blog. Then there are the words and phrases which totally mystified me, because there is no clear analogue in American English. One of my favourite of these is “lurgy” (also sometimes spelled “lurgi,” but that just looks wrong to me). What is a lurgy, you ask? Good question. As best as I can tell, a lurgy is a nasty snotty coughy achy cold. Interestingly, “lurgy” never seems to be used with an indefinite article, but always with a definite article. “I’ve got the lurgy,” you might say, as you shoo your friend away from tasting your cocktail.
If you have been following my blog, you will know that I spent my holiday in the Caribbean. (I know! Lucky me!) Whilst in the Caribbean, I got the lurgy. Hardly fair, although I have to say that snorkeling is surprisingly effective at temporarily relieving sinus pain. This lurgy has been remarkably persistent, however, and only worsened after my long red-eye flight from Miami to London. So today I decided to make a stew to beat the lurgy. It is a lovely hearty smoky wintry stew, with more than a hint of Spain about it, although I wouldn’t say it’s purely Spanish. It’s got chicken stock and loads of garlic, both mother-approved lurgy-defeating ingredients. It’s also a pretty inexpensive dish to make, even though both chorizo and saffron are indispensable components. And even if it doesn’t cure the lurgy, it is damn tasty.
For the stew
150 grams (about 1 cup) split red lentils, well-rinsed in cold running water
100 grams (about ¼ pound) soft cooking chorizo, sliced into rounds
One medium sweet onion, diced
One carrot, chopped into small dice
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and chopped into small dice (I used a romano pepper)
½ kilo (about a pound) of ripe sweet tomatoes, coarsely chopped
400 milliliters (about half a quart) of white chicken stock
1 cup water
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon aged sherry vinegar
Salt to taste
For the chimichurri
A generous pinch saffron
A head of garlic
A large handful of parsley, leaves picked from the stems and chopped
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius (about 375 degrees Fahrenheit). Slice the top ¼ inch off your head of garlic, drizzle the top with olive oil,wrap in kitchen foil and roast for about 45 minutes or until soft.
Combine the lentils, chicken stock, and bay leaf in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. While your lentils are cooking, heat a couple of generous glugs of olive oil (I would say about two tablespoons) in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown the sliced chorizo and then add the onions.
Sauté until onions are semi-transparent, about two to three minutes, and then add the diced carrots and red pepper. Sauté briefly, then stir in the tomatoes, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the tomatoes have begun to soften and release their juices (about five minutes). Dump the lot in the pot with the lentils and deglaze your frying pan over medium heat with a cup of water. Add this water to the lentils, then add the red pepper flakes, and cook, covered, over low heat for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Stir in the sherry vinegar and salt to taste (I used two teaspoonfuls) and remove from heat. Allow stew to stand to incorporate flavours, covered, while you prepare your chimichurri.
Crumble the saffron with your fingers into a small bowl and allow to bloom in a couple of tablespoons of boiling hot water. Squeeze the soft garlic cloves from your roasted head of garlic. You can do the rest in a mini food processor or you can use a mortar and pestle. Combine the saffron (in its liquid) and the garlic and pound (or blend) together. Next, add the parsley, a generous pinch of salt, and a little glug of olive oil (one to two tablespoons) and pound or blend into a paste.
Makes 4-6 servings.