Here’s one for the win. As a foodie and a mother I know first hand the tightrope walk of balancing waste not, want not with the coup d’é·tat that children manifest at dinner time… with new or “exotic” food. Dinner has become one of the most frustrating times of my life since I had children. Most of my culinary education happened abroad and I found love in the flavors of Mexico, Morocco, Turkey, Cambodia, Ethiopia… to name a few. My love of Indian food came from living in Scotland rather than any really exotic travel… but my norms had to change for love of my son, who somehow seemed to inherit those genes that translate the smell of cumin to body odor and the flavor of cilantro to that of soap. There’s science behind this folks… it’s a real thing embedded in the genes of 4-14 percent of the human population. Well, poop. Here I stand. Nearly my entire cooking repertoire is laced with these spices. If I’m being accurate; Mexican, North African, Middle Eastern and Indian food once made up 80% of my weekly menu. All of these use cumin as a staple spice so as a loving mother I had to go back to the drawing board. I’m not cruel, after all.
The easiest jump from ethnic foods to kid food was to well… make “kid food”. Charcuterie boards, Fettuccini Romano, Pesto al Pasta… these are all kid friendly if not traditionally “kid food.” My son loved Moussakka and Ratatouille when he was small, favoring the aubergine in all it’s sloppy goodness before he turned a corner and became a hot dog and peanut butter & jelly boy. Seriously? I’ve never liked hot dogs. Or PB&J. What gives?!
So fast forward through some very frustrating years of food prep and an inordinate amount of lovingly prepared GOOD food becoming entertainment and fodder for the floor… we moved to Northern Ireland where I found further challenges in my foodie-verse. There is a certain level of shame that accompanies the knowledge that your idea of frugal… and I mean missionary abroad frugal, not American frugal, is extravagant to 90% of the population where you live. We struggled to stay in budget in Ireland and I had to hit the drawing board. What I found was that I was spending nearly four times what the average family our size spent on groceries. Seriously??! No really. WTF. Why The Face! Picture this: Hello, nice to meet you. I’m American and yes, I’m a total glutton. No. No thank you. Hard pass on that one. It’s not as though I was being extravagant in my shopping. But I also wasn’t accustomed to cooking what we in the west call “good plain food”. So… in essence I was buying mostly “exotic” ingredients without realizing it. I needed to learn to shop the local standard. I cried at night because I didn’t know how to make “simple food” as most people would know it. Really. Hot wet tears. My poor husband I’m sure didn’t know WHAT was wrong with me. How hard can it be? Right?!? When adding broccoli to the menu (frequently) nearly breaks the cultural budget you know you have a serious problem.
I did find our solutions to the grocery budgeting issue through gardening and fermenting foods. It was simple and I found ways of keeping my family healthy on £400 a month. Let’s just say we ate a lot of potatoes, carrots and cultured hummus. Fermenting was my culinary creative outlet, which was good because I desperately needed one.
Coming back to the point… my boy is not a massive fan of cumin or cilantro. Neither is my huband… or my mother. So there you go. I love hot culture flavors and creating them is second nature for me. Although my preferences have always been toward the spicy and middle eastern or asian flavors, there were certain subtleties to the foods of France, Spain & Portugal that were hard to ignore. A richness or depth, as you’d say. Olives and oranges and perfectly crusty bread… and seafood in garlicky oil. Gorgeous. A lightbulb went on the other day while I was blankly staring at a tube of chorizo in the grocery store. Why not get my favorite flavors and go the way of the Europeans… subbing the cumin and cilantro for bay and thyme and oregano and parsley… This might seem obvious to you but to me it hadn’t occurred to me that I might be able to trick my son into loving some of my favorite flavors.
So into the instant pot went a couple of chicken breasts, a few ounces of chorizo, some bay and oregano from the garden and a plethora of veg I had on hand… tomatoes, peppers, onion, carrots. Simple food (here at least). In trepidation I walked away and let that mystic machine do it’s magic. An hour later my five year old daughter was picking through it with a fork and uuming and aahing over it. This bodes well. I let it “warm” for hours until I could deal with it. We got through our homework with only a few tantrums and then Eva and I made a pie crust and spooned the stew into it with a bit of gravy whipped up to bake. I immediately re-made the whole batch because it was that good.
All this long long story to say what you already guessed. It was a win. The six year old, the five year old and the three year old all ate it despite its mixed appearance and enjoyed it. And so did the hubs, so that makes it a quadruple win. That I loved it goes without saying.
So here it is:
- 2 Chicken Breasts
- 3 oz/85 grams beef chorizo, loose (you can use pork, we’re just not particularly partial to it)
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1-3 ripe tomatoes, diced (or one pouch diced or crushed tomatoes)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 capsicum/bell pepper or a handful of sweet mini peppers (I used the latter)
- 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- a handful of chopped oregano leaves (or 2-3 tsp dried oregano)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika (you can use more, but this amount is kid friendly)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1-2 tsp kosher salt, to taste
- I added a cup of sliced carrots to this for a pie version. Sorry for the lack of photos. We ate it. For the stew I used riced cauliflower. You can add what you like or leave it. I’m always looking for ways to add veg to our dishes and I was pleased with both of these options. I’ll be curious to create a vegan version of this but as I know it’ll be deemed “girl food” by the boy boy it’ll wait for another round of our meal cycle.
- Pop all the above ingredients into your instant pot and set to meat/stew. Cover and walk away. It’ll be ready in 35 minutes, or 45 if your chicken was frozen.
- If you’re doing this in a slow cooker, add the ingredients in the morning and set on low. Leave until you’re ready for it.
- I’ve had varying quality of cookers and some I could leave completely alone while others I had to add a bit of water. There should be enough natural juices that you don’t need to add further liquid but if you have one of those crocks that burns everything to a crisp I would recommend adding a cup or so of water.
For the gravy:
(optional, but necessary if you’re going to pour it in a pie, which we did)
- Strain the juices from the pot through a colander into a quart pyrex or bowl.
- In a pan over medium heat, spoon 2 Tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) in and let melt.
- Add 2 Tbsp Tapioca flour and whisk until it foams.
- Slowly pour 2 cups of the strained juices from the stew into the ghee mixture and whisk until it becomes a roux, thickening to a foam. Keep pouring and whisking until you have a somewhat thick gravy. Use to pour over the strained meat into a pie, or pour back into the pot for a thicker gravy-licious stew.
I am still working on adapting my pie crust to grain free for my becoming grain limited lifestyle so I’ll post it when I’m satisfied. If you’d like ideas for the vegan version of this, message me and I’ll be happy to share my thoughts.
In the meantime I hope you enjoy it!