Turning right and Chicken and Sobrasada Casserole.

Chicken and Sobrasada Casserole (12 of 12)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.

The ingredients list is short but packed with flavour.

The ingredients list is short but packed with flavour. I used only one of the sobrasada sausages.

Ingredients

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!

Photography can be good for one's mood too. Look at the sweating courgettes.

Photography can be good for one’s mood too. Look at the sweating courgettes.

Slice the sobrasada into chunks.

The sobrasada has a lovely colour. As it cooks, it will colour your mood too.

The sobrasada has a lovely colour. As it cooks, it will colour your mood too.

It will literally melt in the casserole. Brown the chicken on all sides in a big casserole dish (Dutch oven).

Add the sobrasada. It will melt away like depression in the mountains.

Add the sobrasada. It will melt away like depression in the mountains.

Stir and turn the chicken in the casserole dish.

Sobrasada has a lovely smoky flavour. It infuses the chicken.

Sobrasada has a lovely smoky flavour. It infuses the chicken.

Next, make a tomato sauce. Chop the onions and soften them in a large frying pan. All the aromas will really lift your mood.

Soften the onions, adding the garlic about half way through. This prevents the garlic from burning and getting bitter.

Soften the onions, adding the garlic about half way through. This prevents the garlic from burning and getting bitter.

Add the tomatoes and stir to combine.

The tomatoes break down in the sauce making. That's what we want.

The tomatoes break down in the sauce making. That’s what we want.

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.

The colour in this dish is enough to lift that mild depression.

The colour in this dish is enough to dispel that mild depression.

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.

Washed and ready to go. Healthy, tasty butter beans.

Washed and ready to go. Healthy, tasty butter 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.

Just the trick after a long bike ride in the mountains.

Just the trick after a long bike ride in the mountains.

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!

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  • Amazing courage to speak up about the Black Dog on such a public forum – well done.
    Where do you go on your spins up the mountains? I may have passed you a couple of times as I spin up there often myself!

    • Hi Richie,
      Thanks for the kind words. I have read your blog on numerous occasions without realising you were in Ireland. Thankfully, the dog doesen’t get me too often and I usually have the ability (the bike) to shake off his attentions. To answer your question on the cycling, I live just off the Leopardstown Road and usually ‘turn right’ on to it and head up via Enniskerry or Johnny Fox’s. I am building up the strength for this year’s Paris2Nice. All good fun!
      Best,
      Conor
      ps: Good to be linked on Strava too.

      • Hi Conor,
        Yes, I’m just across the road from you here, in Goatstown! Saw you’d a pretty epic spin today (Sunday), you’ll be flying on Paris2Nice. I, for my part, will be doing the Wicklow 200 in just 6 weeks, which be interesting.
        See you out on the bike!
        – Richie

        • I have signed on for the 100. I believe that at some stage, I’ll be turning left, where you turn right. The irony…

  • Chapeau my friend. I can see a new blog “Dog handling skills”.

    Looking forward to our next spin & breaking bread sometime soon.

    • I love it Ronan,
      Cyclist, philanthropist, marketing guru and dog handler!
      Best,
      C

  • I love this post, Conor. Such raw emotion, but gently worded. The Black Dog scratches at me sometimes too and it runs around to others in my family also. We just have to push forward and whether we want to or not break out of it and do the things that make us happy to keep that dog at bay.
    The casserole looks amazing! Will definitely have to give it a try. The farmers’ markets are starting to open up here now. The zucchini as we call them here in the states will be arriving soon.

    • Hi Debbie,
      You live in such excellent biking country, there would be no chance of the dog getting up the hills after you. Keep up the great Mountain Kitchen work.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Good on you Conor.

    • Thanks Ed,
      I enjoyed writing it. Delighted it engaged with a few.
      C

  • Great that cycling clears your head. have you heard of hooponopono. There is a teacher of it in Ireland. my sous vide is on order btw

    • Hi Allan,
      Many years ago, I used to practice Transcendental Meditation, I find that a good hard bike ride has the same mental effect of clearing everything out and leaving the mind focussed only on one thing. The difference is with the meditation, one gets no physical benefit. If I had time for both, I would. However though, the bike will win any ‘either or’ situation.
      Great to hear about the sous vide. I have two things planned for this weekend. A chicken experiment and beef cheeks with coffee and orange. The latter will either be a culinary triumph or a funny story…

  • Delicious take on a Spanish classic and a great use for sobrasada, I can smell and taste it from all the way over here. Glad you left the dog in the mountains.

    • Thanks Linda,
      A friend introduced me to the sobrasada late last year. It adds a fantastic extra dimension (as well as a good layer of delicious fat) to any casserole. I have a rabbit stew done with it. I will hold posting it in case ye all think I have gone sobrasada mad (which, of course, I have).

      • I thought it was a really interesting use as previously I’ve mostly seen it used just as a spreading sausage on a hunk of bread. Kudos. Looking forward to the next one!

        • It’s lovely that way too. Though, a bit too “minute on your lips…” As it is so tasty.

  • Great writing to deal with such an issue! I’m glad you managed to clear your head and banish it back to the kennel on this occasion!

    I keep my eye out and hope that one day I’ll be able to pick up some sobrasada from the deli or supermarket. I’ve been doing so for years!!! One day I’m going to see some, I’m sure of it!

    • Thanks Lisa,
      There is a Spanish guy, Carlos, who imports some specialist Spanish goods here in Dublin. He is my go to guy for olive oil from Malaga and sobrasada too.

  • This looks like another winner Conor! I discovered that I can buy the sobrasada through Amazon! Will let you know how this one goes. Be well my friend… ^..^

    • Excellent Barb. Great to see the recipe getting an outing over there!

      • It just looks really really tasty! 🙂

  • The sobrasada drew me in to your post today when I should have been doing something else and I’m glad it did. Beautifully written post.

    • Thanks Pamela,
      I didn’t want to get too heavy about it. But, for me, the bike does the trick. It also builds a big appetite for a casserole like this!

  • This is a very inspiring casserole and I think I know where I can get ahold of sobrasada. I’m on mission now to recreate this. How in the heck did you get that shot of the tomato dropping from the can!? 🙂 So good to hear you can outride those damn dogs Conor.

    • You are too kind Seana. I would love to see your version on Tiny White Cottage. The tomato shot was just dumb luck. For the moment, I am outrunning the dog and laughing at his best.

  • Yet another triumph!

  • That shit looks like delicious, Conor. Sure to help get the hose onto that big black dog 👍

  • When I saw this earlier, Conor, I did wonder why you were posting on a Friday, and now my week’s the richer for it. Honestly beautiful food paired with beautifully written honesty. Next time I’m a bit extremely angry at the world I hope to remember to leave my own metaphors in the mountains. Thank you.

    PS the chicken does look stunning but just for today, I preferred the bit about the dog.

    • I have a spare bike in the shed. Yours, any time you want to borrow it.

  • The Black Dog. Was married for 21 years to a fantastic guy with a bad form of the genetic version. The ultimate divorce was meant to help. Did not. But climbing the Himalayas and Andes somehow did. Perhaps like your biking . . . Can’t say but ‘Thank God’ even after. Big smile: he too was an ultimate foodie . . .

    • Thanks Eha. I have done a little bit of mountain walking in Norway, where my sister lives. There is no doubt, it is good for the soul. Thanks too for being so open. As we get older, social convention seems to matter less. I find it lets me smile more. We really have more important things on our minds.

      Now, where’s my bike…

      • Conor . . Facing on what did happen or denying the ‘bloody stuff’ – what would be the point ? Matters would not be any different. If same thus would not make me ‘smile any more’ I would hardly be keyboarding . . . . oh, I do smile and enjoy . . . . . your ‘pouts’ to begin with . . . 🙂 !!

  • Respect to you, Conor. Lovely looking dish too. I do a similar thing with chorizo. Very tasty.
    Be well.

    • Thanks Adam. Thankfully, the bike has bee out weekly at least over the past few months. Never in better form. The food helps too!

  • I would normally buy my tinned toms chopped. Do you recommend buying them whole and letting them ‘break down in the sauce making’? This is for spaghetti sauce, which I do simmer for a good while. Was concerned they wouldn’t break down, I do quite large batches, but don’t mind some chunks–just not whole.

    • In my experience, the whole ones have a lot more tomato and a lot less water. They do break down of their own accord, perhaps with the benefit of a little stirring. The only downside is the hard stalk end needs to be fished out sometimes. Though, the flavour benefits far outweigh this little inconvenience.

      • Good point about more tomato and less water. And I could remove the stalk simply enough from each before pouring in the pan. Thanks Conor 🙂

  • Great post, Conor! Good job on sharing the dog with us and vanquishing it. Good job on the meal and photography as well — especially like the salted courgettes!

    • Thanks Stefan. I enjoyed getting that shot.

  • Lovely dish, as always, Conor. And as a descendant of an Irish family with the same problem, I know that “keep moving” is the best cure there is. Now, I’d better head out to locate some sobrasada…

    • Thanks Michelle,
      Keep moving in every respect. There’s no sense in letting the critter get a toe hold. Do get the sobrasada and give it a whirl.
      Best,
      Conor

  • This looks fantastic! I love all the flavors you are using

    • Thanks, I really enjoyed it too. Very healthy too, if you ignore all the fat!

  • Apt description, the Black Dog. A lot of us in my family, including me, suffer bouts. For me, it’s either setting aside quiet time or dancing. Dancing usually works, gets the endorphins fired up. Glad you have cycling to outrun the demons.

    • Thanks Virginia,
      I am a useless dancer. However, the bike does it for me. Endorphin release is the key. They really lift the humour.
      Best,
      Conor

  • We have such problems here in Australia with road rage and drivers not wanting to share the road. Even setting out can be stressful. Luckily we are blessed in my city with a pathways that’ll take you a long way. Turn right from mine is up Mt. Coot-tha and struggletown, left is the riverside path, gentle and free flowing. It’s all good therapy. White line therapy on the bike, black line therapy in the pool. Both of which leave you wanting to eat. Nice touch with the sobrassada.

    • Thanks Adam. I’m not a big swim fan. Though I grew up beside the sea. I loved wind surfing and water skiing but don’t get to do much of either in recent years. The bike keeps me straight.

  • Oh my gosh! I want this so bad! It reminds me a bit of my Basque Chicken…that sausage! Wow!

  • I use exercise for my moods too. My morning workout changes my day from blah to aha! in 45 minutes. Then I can get on with my life.
    I love cyclists!!!!
    Skinny jeans Mum

    • Excellent. I well be hopping on the bike in half an hour ad heading up the mountains. I love it!

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