Yes, there will be more of Alex’s cooking. The girl cooks faster than she hands over the documentation so the publication of her more recent cooking adventures will have to wait for a little while. It makes me smile that Alex’s cooking has been getting quite a few encouraging feedbacks. On the blog’s Facebook page, many of her recipes have garnered a wide reach and high number of shares. And what aren’t so popular on Facebook turns out to be well liked on Google+. Just goes to show how radically different the audience preference in social networks can be.
While I wait for Alex to provide me with the recipes for her 3-cheese chicken and glazed fried donut holes, here’s a recipe that should make budget-conscious cooks happy. I’ve been reading a lot about how this generation of food porn lovers has given rise to so much food waste. On cooking shows, for instance, you will rarely see the host chopping less than perfect-looking onions and tomatoes. The fruits are always uniformly colored and sized, and they don’t have bruises nor any other sign of imperfection. Subconsciously, when TV viewers who worship these celebrity chefs go food shopping, they turn away from less than perfectly shaped and colored ingredients, and the “rejects” just rot and go to waste. Fruit and vegetable purveyors are encouraged to sell less than perfect looking produce at a discount to bring waste to a minimum but the pervasive food porn culture is still winning so far. Too bad.
The thing is, the food porn message that prime fresh ingredients are a must to make great meals does not mean that ingredients have to look perfect before they are cut and thrown into the pot. Freshness and good looks are not mutually exclusive. A small irregularly-shaped and unevenly-colored tomato can be just as fresh and juicy as a large and perfectly red specimen. Pork face may not look as pretty as a piece of trimmed tenderloin but any good cook knows that pork cheek is infinitely tastier than the fatless and bland tenderloin.
And that brings me to the recipe for this stew. I had about a kilo and a half of cow’s legs (with the hooves) which Speedy bought so I could stock up on bone broth. But there was so much gelatinous meat attached to the bones that I was able to make a stew out of what most First World cooks would have thrown away. I combined the cow leg meat with half of a Spanish chorizo and lentils left over from the lentil-and-oats burgers that I made for Sam last weekend. Result? The main ingredients may be scrap meat and leftovers but that didn’t make the stew taste like a careless assembly of disparate flavors. The stew is deliciously addictive, the gelatinous cow leg and hoof meat just dissolves in the mouth with no serious mastication, the chorizo imparts all its glorious spiciness to the sauce and the lentils provide just the right touch to make the rich meatiness not too redundant. And the sauce? The sauce just wants to make you pour it all over the rice on your plate or get mopped up with torn crusty bread.
Cow leg, chorizo and lentil stew
- 1 and 1/2 kilograms cow leg with hooves
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup sliced spicy chorizo
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 cup cooked lentils
- shaved cheese
- chopped basil and parsley
- Ask the butcher to slice the cow leg and hooves into pieces that can fit into your slow cooker.
- Rinse the cut up cow legs and hooves, place in the slow cooker and pour in as much water as the cooker can handle. Add salt, peppercorns and a bay leaf. Cook on LOW for ten to eleven hours.
- Scoop out the bones and meat. Strain the broth and reserve for another use.
- When the cow leg and hooves are cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the bones. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. You won't get a lot of meat, I tell you. A cup and a half to two cups, most likely.
- The rest of the cooking is done on the stove top.
- In a thick-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil. Saute the chorizo slices with the garlic and onion for about a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, oregano and sugar; continue sautéing for another minute.
- Add the cow leg and hooves meat to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Add the lentils to the pot. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Ladle the stew into bowls. Add a dollop of yogurt and top with shaved cheese. Sprinkle with parsley and basil. Serve hot.