Those of you who know me reasonably well know that I do a bit of cycling. Some who know me better would also be aware that I am generally bright spirited and positive in my approach to living. Only those of ye that know me very, very well would also know that I do suffer occasionally from visits by the ‘Black Dog’ of depression.
When, even in the mild form that occasionally besets me, depression starts to claw away, eating at my enthusiasm and interest in the more enjoyable side of life. My desire to cook and to write get gnawed first. When I feel this coming on, there is nothing better for me than to take the bike out and put some distance behind me. However, the desire to take on the Wicklow Mountains can be savaged by the Dog. So, when I leave our estate (housing, not private acreage) on the bike I have to face a decision, turn left for the relative flat of the coast or turn right to begin the painful climb into the Wicklow Hills.
Last weekend, while the dark dog was scratching at the side gate, I was faced with a very cold, wet and uninviting morning. I really didn’t want to go. I got my act together enough to get the bike out. At the estate entrance, decision time. Turn left and go for an easy spin in the company of the Dog. Turn right, take on the mountains and try to leave that canine critter somewhere in the foothills.
Right it was. The first 40 minutes of riding filled with self doubt and excuses. The rest of the spin, spent with a clear head, smiling to myself and planning to cook something really tasty and worthy of the effort I’m putting in. Something using a gift from a thoughtful friend. Something using Sobrasada brought back from Mallorca just so I could cook something nice. So it just had to be Chicken and Sobrasada Casserole.
I was feeding 5 people, so 5 bone-in chicken breasts were included. As were:
- 1 entire sausage of sobrasada (if you can get your hands on it).
- 3 tins of butter beans
- 3 onions
- 3 or 4 courgettes
- 2 tins of tomatoes
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cloves of garlic
- A handful of parsley
First slice the courgettes and salt them to extract excess moisture. Make them sweat!
Slice the sobrasada into chunks.
It will literally melt in the casserole. Brown the chicken on all sides in a big casserole dish (Dutch oven).
Stir and turn the chicken in the casserole dish.
Next, make a tomato sauce. Chop the onions and soften them in a large frying pan. All the aromas will really lift your mood.
Add the tomatoes and stir to combine.
Reduce the tomato sauce until it is nice and thick. Don’t season it. Bear in mind that the Sobrasada adds a fair bit of flavour. Pat the courgettes dry and add them to the casserole. Add the tomato sauce too.
Heat this through and simmer with the lid off. This will thicken the sauce and allow the flavours to concentrate. Season as you see fit. After half an hour, add the beans.
Stir them into the casserole and let them warm through.
Serve the casserole with a big chunk of crusty bread. Use it to mop up the sauce. The hot red colour comes from the paprika and oil in the sobrasada. It tastes delicious.
It may depress you a bit if you can’t get your hands on the sobrasada. Don’t let it get you down. Take the bike out and remember, turn right and leave the Dog behind!