Over any given week the topics in the news and those we talk about amongst friends change frequently, they rarely stay current for very long. Examples right now might include the American election, the role of the judiciary, Andy Murray’s ascension to number one and Toblerone. However there is one that is always current – the weather. The British fascination with weather means that it is constantly on our minds and something we discuss daily.
It may not always be a at the forefront of conversation but rest assured it is always nearby. It can take many forms, perhaps gentle passing small talk between less well known colleagues or neighbours – “gotten chilly hasn’t it”, “certainly has”. Or it can be a pleasant discussion of the changing seasons by pointing out that we are having a particularly beautiful autumn this year. (Which, by the way, we are – have you seen the colours?) More often than not though we like to complain about the weather and it is the perfect topic on which to do so for two reasons.
Firstly, weather is the great social leveller; we all have the weather in common. Rich or poor, fat or thin, male or female, it allows us all to offer our experiences. Newspapers cash in on our collective love leading with front pages of extremes of weather, sometimes even predictions of extremes – Indian summers or Siberian winters; because even when there’s no weather there is still weather. It is a beautiful thing. We are comforted by the fact that no matter where we are, whose company we are in, we can always discuss the weather. And best of all, for the British, we are in no danger of offending anyone no matter how strong our opinions about the current climate may be, so if ever in doubt or struggling for conversation, weather is the perfect icebreaker.
Secondly, weather complaints will never end nor they will they get resolved; they simply shift as the weather changes. And this suits us because we have no interest in our grievances being dealt with. It is the sole reason we don’t complain in restaurants, the last thing we want is for our complaint to be dealt with. This would take away the joy of being able to complain outside of restaurants to anyone who will listen – taxi drivers, babysitters or colleagues. A meal out with a complaint dealt with promptly and professionally offers perhaps a minute or two of small talk. A bad meal, with a hidden complaint offers hours, days, or months of conversation. We don’t complain, so that we can complain, but crucially only to those who can’t help. The weather offers such a perfect opportunity for complaining without fear of it ever being resolved or solutions offered allowing us to talk about it infinitely. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Talking of the weather, you will have no doubt noticed that it has turned chilly these past few days. I imagine you have brought out your winter coat, and maybe even started the log fire if you are lucky enough to have one. This all means one thing – it is time for comforting meals such as stews and casseroles. As luck would have it that is exactly what this week’s recipe of chorizo, potato and cabbage is. It is almost as if I plan these things.
The cultured, well-travelled and Portuguese amongst you may notice that this is similar to the dish caldo verde. It is, well done, though it is less soupy than the classic, veering more towards a hearty stew, by being richer and all together more satisfying than a soup.
Serves: 2 as a hearty main or 4 at lunch with some bread
Cooking Time: 1- 1 ½ hrs
125g Roasted red peppers,
1½ tsp Smoked Paprika
350g New Potatoes
500ml Vegetable stock
200g Cavolo Nero
Begin by slicing the onion and roughly chopping the red peppers, add to a casserole dish with a little oil and sweat over a low heat, covered, for 5-10 minutes.
While the onions are softening, peel the skin from the chorizo and cut into centimetre thick rounds. Leave to one side. Next, cut the potatoes into quarters or halves, so they are no bigger than the chorizo.
Once the onions have started to soften add the paprika, chorizo and potatoes to the pan. Give everything a good stir return the lid, and cook for about 10 minutes so the chorizo starts to release its oil. Stir every few minutes to prevent burning and to coat the potatoes in the paprika oil.
After 10 minutes add the stock, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to the lowest simmer and cook, covered for about 1 hour until the potatoes are very soft but still holding their shape. At this point roughly chop the Cavolo Nero and add to the pan. Give it a stir and cook for a further 10mins.
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