This is one of those times where you throw a few things in the oven, do a very small amount of chopping and arranging, put a pan on briefly and produce a miraculous array of delights that make you wonder why you ever bother slaving away over a hob for hours when you could do this in approximately thirty minutes. I had a few things in the fridge to use up, and I've had a few excellent meals over the last couple of weeks that provided me with a bit of inspiration. I didn't quite envisage the luxuriant feast it would turn into, though. Sat outside on a sunny summer evening with a glass of wine, I can think of few things better.
The original plan for the meal was this chorizo. I spied these fat, brick-red sausages at the butchers' a week or so ago, and bought them on impulse. Cooking chorizo is so much tastier than the dry, hard kind you buy in the supermarket to eat straight away, and far superior to the pre-sliced, flabby stuff you get in antipasti selections. Shudder. It has more moisture and more zesty flavour, and when it meets hot oil in a pan, something a little bit magical happens. Chorizo cooked in cider is a favourite dish at well-known York institution The House of the Trembling Madness, a cosy pub adorned with a variety of taxidermy that produces excellent hearty food. So simple, but so luscious, especially when paired with hunks of good bread to dip into the oily, mouth-staining, salty, paprika-spiked juices. I put the sausages in a dish, covered with cider and baked in the oven at 180C for 40 minutes. That was literally it. It was incredible.
To cut through the richness of this, a salad inspired by La Feria in Harrogate, where I ate lunch last week. We had a feisty little salad of peppery leaves, slivered dates, blue cheese and a tangy vinaigrette to go with our tapas board (which also featured chorizo, but cooked in sherry rather than cider), which was lovely and which I decided to recreate. Sort of. Get a nice big serving platter, and scatter over loads of mixed leaves (I like rocket, watercress and spinach). Get some good quality fat dates (Medjool are ideal), around two per person. Slice them lengthways into slivers, then scatter over the leaves. Crumble over some fresh goat's cheese (you could use most cheeses, though, depending on what you like). Toast some whole almonds in the oven until golden and fragrant, then roughly chop and scatter over as well. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tsp pomegranate molasses, 2 tsp balsamic vinegar and 3 tbsp olive oil with some seasoning. Drizzle over the salad then serve immediately. This is lovely with the meaty, spicy chorizo - serve it with something gutsy and punchy to cut through the richness.
Also at La Feria, we had a little earthenware dish full of incredible prawns. Served still sizzling in fragrant, brick-red oil, they were doused in garlic and paprika and some of the best things I've ever eaten. You can make this in minutes, and it is the kind of moreish, 'ohmygod' food that makes you wonder why you ever eat anything more complex. Get a small frying pan and put about 40g of butter in it along with 2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil and 3 cloves of crushed garlic. Heat until everything starts to sizzle, then add 1 tsp good quality smoked paprika. Stir briefly, then throw in 200g prawns (for 2 people), cook for a minute then flip the prawns over. Season well with pepper and salt (I used smoked salt), then sprinkle over 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley. Serve immediately with lemon wedges. It's absolutely glorious, and you will want to lap up every last drop of the buttery, garlicky, smoky, seafood-sweet sauce.
All this needs good bread. You will need to mop up the chorizo-cider juices, and the buttery prawn liquor. You can, of course, buy good bread, but I made a loaf of wholemeal and rye sourdough (this recipe, but using 430g wholemeal bread flour and 70g rye flour), which we had fresh from the oven, torn into thick chunks and used to soak up the delicious by-products of cooking tasty protein in heaps of oil and butter. Yeah. We had some marinated olives alongside, too, to continue the theme, but these were probably the least sought-after item. Everything else was so damn good.
I reckon you could easily throw this together in the time it takes the chorizo to cook, i.e. 40 minutes. I whipped it up on a Monday night after work, and I know I'm a massive over-achiever when it comes to cooking but I promise you can definitely do this too. It looks far more impressive than the effort it requires and is luscious to eat. Just a bit of inspiration for your next summer dinner party. Serve with lashings of sangria or good wine, and maybe have some ice cream or sorbet for pudding, as everything here is quite rich. Enjoy.