Friday, 16 January 2015

Braised Celery & Tomatoes with Chickpeas & Pancetta

I first saw a variation of this recipe on a site I like to visit, as I have mentioned before, Food52. Initially thinking of serving it as a side I read through the comments where someone stated that they had served a version as a main over polenta which sounded so delicious I couldn’t resist giving it a go, adding a little heat with a smidge of paprika.

The initial recipe is apparently adapted from one in Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and is excellent if you have a glut of celery where you can benefit from a long slow cooking that produces a creamy and sweet, although quite robust taste rather than merely using a relatively small amount of celery as the background notes of a dish, as I normally do.

Lovely and satisfying I suspect this work really well with a good glass of red but I’m currently not drinking so, oh well. By the way, if you want this veggie, simply leave out the lardons and if you want a side rather than a main then you could leave out the chickpeas.

Braised Celery and Tomato with Chickpeas & Pancetta
serves 2

300g celery stalks, trimmed and cut diagonally into 2″ lengths
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 onion, very thinly sliced
45g lardons
80g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight & cooked according to package instructions
sml tin plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
¼ tsp paprika
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat and add the onion. Cook for 5-10 minutes until they have softened and are starting to colour and then add the lardons.

When the fat from the strips has rendered a little (about 10-15 minutes: turn the heat down if they are cooking too fast), add the garlic and paprika and stir for a minute or so until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes with their juices, chickpeas, celery, 100ml water and salt and pepper. Toss thoroughly to ensure everything is well mixed and the celery is coated.

Lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes then uncover, taste and carefully adjust the seasoning if necessary. Continue to simmer until the celery is completely tender and most of the liquid has cooked off, about another 15 minutes.

Serve over soft polenta in wide bowls.

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