Today marks the start of week four of our eight week I Quit Sugar journey. My dear husband is starting to see the pounds fall off him, and except for a few unpleasant detox symptoms, I’m still feeling excellent and continue to be overwhelmed with the amount of energy I have compared to just a couple of months ago. The one downside to the program is some of the food – I don’t love many of the recipes, finding them uninspired and frankly, uninteresting. There are a few that will most certainly be keepers, including a spelt pasta dish that was a revelation, but as we enter week 4, I’m going off-piste, coming up with healthy meals that fit within the program’s guidelines.
This recipe is one that I came up with last week after a particularly busy day that included a long walk for an errand through Primrose Hill. Please indulge me for just a moment as I wax poetic about this lovely little enclave nestled in the heart of central London. This was the first neighborhood my dear husband and I lived in together. We managed to snag a little one bedroom apartment overlooking the train tracks for way below market value, spruced it up, and lived there very happily for more than 2 years. We furnished the place with bits and pieces borrowed from friends or retrieved from our posher neighbors who were throwing things out to the curb, until we could gradually save and replace with what we wanted. When we moved there neither of us had any idea that Primrose Hill was home to the likes of Jamie Oliver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Moss, and Daniel Craig, but soon caught on as when we told people where we lived, their eyes widened in disbelief. The high street retains a little villagey feel and during the Christmas season is lit up like a cotton candy fairy tale. Summertime’s sunny days were spent on the Hill, a small park that offers views out over the city, packed with picnickers and dogs and paparazzi. I knew all of the shopkeepers, catered little events hosted by various shops, enjoyed celebrity spotting at the pubs. Alas, our tenancy came to an end when the flat was sold, and I’ve never been so sad to leave a place.
So last Thursday, I took the opportunity of a lovely Autumn day to allow a little extra time to wander down Primrose Hill’s high street, Regent’s Park Road, to suss out what the posh boutiques had newly stocked and what new restaurants had opened. There’s a new celebrity butcher shop, Jack O’Shea’s that I would have been very pleased to have had while we were there. Shoe shop Spice still has the little spotted pumps I’ve been coveting, however I’ve conceded that they would be highly impractical for the daily stomping around town I do. Greenberry Cafe is a cozy spot for a pot of tea, however, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive for replacing my weird little Russian restaurant Trojka. Meanwhile, the eccentric, overly muscled, overly tanned, short shorts wearing, middle aged man who was always in one of the street’s cafes, was living up to his reputation and seated in front of Cachao, all limbs exposed in spite of the chill.
I picked up the ingredients for this Spanish Chicken Stew at Shepherd’s Foods, the outrageously overpriced grocery that stocks lots of hard-to-find ingredients, including lots of American food (Apple Jack’s cereal, Hershey’s chocolate chips, corn syrup, Progresso bread crumbs, Jolly Rancher candies, canned pumpkin, canned yams, fried onions, Golden Grahams, Bagel Chips). The same Indian man who manages the place came over to greet me and ask me how I’d been, and the same shrill Eastern European woman checked me out at the till. I took my goodies and in the spirit of my new-found healthy streak, climbed to the top of Primrose Hill Park to take in the view and give my glutes a little extra kick.
Some of my favorite ideas come to me while I’m on these long walks I’m taking all over London. I come up with things to blog about, work out chapters for my book project, compose angry emails to various bureaucrats that I never end up sending, and come up with recipes. It was on my way over to Primrose Hill that this recipe came about and the results were so delicious my husband urged me to share them with you. I love beans, think they’re seriously under utilized in most kitchens and mixed with the chorizo and chicken and mushrooms, you have a hearty, healthy dish.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 chorizo sausages, chopped into small pieces
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 pound chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 large handfuls baby spinach
salt & pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven, add the onion and sautee until softened, about 5 minutes. Now add the garlic and cook for another minute. Throw in the chorizo pieces and cook down until they get quite lovely and crispy. Remove the onion, garlic, and chorizo, leaving behind as much of the remaining oil in the pan as possible. Make sure the pan is quite hot before adding the chicken chunks and sear them on the outside. Cook for about 5 minutes, until well-browned on all sides, then remove it from the pan as well (it can go in with the veggies and chorizo). Finally, add the mushrooms and celery, cooking them for another five minutes, until all of the water has been released from the mushrooms and evaporated. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan and add the sherry vinegar. Add all of the cooked ingredients, give a good stir, add the beans, and cover it all with water – simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Now give the stew a taste for seasoning, add what you’d like and stir in the spinach leaves until they’re wilted.