The other day, I read an article in the Telegraph newspaper about how popular chorizo is becoming in the UK. In it, it describes how sales of Spain’s most well-known type of sausage are almost overtaking those of the more traditional cooked meats usually found in British fridges, such as turkey slices or chicken.
In fact, the article says that while sales of the popular spicy sausage from Spain have increased by 6% in the last year, reaching a whopping 208 million pounds, those of turkey slices, a former favourite choice for sandwiches and salads, have plummeted. Demand for chicken slices has taken a hit as well.
And, the reason for this sudden change in preference of cooked meat? Well, actually there are a few, but the reason that almost half of British households will now always stock chorizo in one form or another in their fridge is largely down to the many cooking programmes fronted by famous and well-liked chefs shown on UK television, and their fondness for using this versatile red Continental banger.
But, it’s not all down to copying the recipes of our favourite celebrity chefs on the tele, the British are well known for adopting foods from other countries and making them their own. Take the now national dish, the curry, for example, with its origins in India. (One source writes that the curry has now been overtaken to the number one spot by the Chinese-style stir-fry.)
Other much-loved dishes that are now just as British as their birth nationality include chilli con carne (Mexico); chicken or beef stir-fry (China); stroganoff (Russia); poppadoms (India); pizza (Italy); pitta bread (Greece); good ole spag bol (Italy) and not forgetting the partygoers’ late-night favourite, the kebab!
Even hummus, tzatziki and taramosalata are becoming firm favourites on British dining tables, despite being almost impossible to pronounce.
In addition, the British population like their spicy and food, and the Spanish chorizo is exactly that.
What’s chorizo made of?
So, what exactly are the ingredients that constitute a chorizo sausage? Well, there are various types of chorizo depending on the region of Spain and where the sausage was elaborated, so the components and the flavours will vary.
However, the basic ingredients are ground pork meat and fat (some recipes use all the parts of the pig that we would not usually eat on their own) and paprika, which gives it its vibrant red colour.
Chorizo elaborated in Murcia, for example, is very hot in terms of spice and therefore contains heaps of hot paprika, whilst chorizo from other areas may be milder and sweeter and would therefore contain extra amounts of sweet paprika instead.
There are numerous varieties of chorizo, each with their own distinctive taste and flavour. Some are more garlicky and others herbier, whilst there are those that are harder in texture and hotter in flavour, and others that are softer and milder. I think you get the picture, don’t you?
Actually, Waitrose stocks 17 different types of this type of Spanish sausage alone, which are available fresh, semi-cured and cured. The upmarket supermarket says that in 2012 they sold five times as much chorizo than in 2008.
What’s all the fuss about?
So, why is the Spanish chorizo about to usurp the common turkey or chicken slice as a British favourite staple and refrigerator must? Well, the Continental cousin of the chipolata must be applauded for both flavour and versatility.
A turkey slice tastes of turkey, although you can dress it up with a pepper or herb crust, or purchase a smoked variety, but that’s more or less it.
Chorizo, on the other hand, can be sweet, hot, spicy, wooded, smoky, full of garlic, pungent, tangy – I’m sure there are many more adjectives that can be used to describe the many guises of the chorizo sausage.
However, as well as its awesome flavour, the chorizo must be praised for its versatility. You can put it in a sandwich or toastie; use it in a salad, stew, omelette, pasta dish, sauce, soup, risotto, or as a pizza topping. It can be served as a tapa and appear as part of a starter or main meal.
Not only this, but you can just about cook chorizo any which way too. It’s delicious fried, roasted, grilled, slow cooked and of course, raw.
One mustn’t forget, either, that chorizo is extremely inexpensive, which is also another reason that sales are soaring in the UK.
The Top 10 most popular dishes using chorizo are (in my humble opinion):
- Mini chorizos cooked in wine or cider (tapa)
- Chorizo with potatoes
- Seared scallops with chorizo
- Penne with chorizo and a creamy tomato sauce
- Chorizo and chickpea stew
- Fried eggs with chorizo and peppers
- Red lentil and chorizo soup
- Chorizo and chicken paella
- Chorizo, tomato and red onion salad
- Chorizo and pea risotto