I seem to have somehow spent the week attempting to achieve ‘food blogger’ status, thanks to some kind encouragement on Twitter and the seemingly endless, generous resources of fellow writers/photographers/hungry internet people. I studied photography at university for 4 years, but they don’t teach you any of the awesome tricks I’m starting to learn. For the most part, what I figured is that other than books, or tips, or guides, that what I really need to do is Just Keep Going. Practice makes perfect.
Practice makes Paella.
Just like with the Thai fishcakes, everything I’ve cooked this week has been totally dictated by the weather and memories of sunny times eating with friends.
My lovely friend Chewy is getting married next weekend, and I’ve been charged with photographing the day for her, which I am honoured, terrified and excited about in equal measure. On a group holiday to Spain a few years ago, we shared a villa and ate delicious food and drank cheap wine out on the balcony pretty much every night. It was bloody lovely. On our last night, we held an awards ceremony to remember all the ridiculous things we’d all done and I was super happy to win “Best Dinner” after making a huge paella for everyone which seemed to magically transcend various fears of seafood and vegetables.
That was 2009 and somehow I hadn’t made it since. Until last night.
Despite saying over and over again to my love that I was “only taking photos for practice” (everything on here so far has been iPhone only – way more convenient for mucky hands in a tiny kitchen but looking at today’s offering, I get that SLR is definitely the way to go), I couldn’t resist ending the week with one last little recipe. So here is a totally basic easy peasy recipe for paella. As it includes peas and lemons, let’s definitely call it Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. Yep.
Paella is obviously traditionally full of seafood. Despite being a life-long lover of the stuff, I can’t get back in to fancying it much since food poisoning stole my prawn-loving appetite in January. So this has a small amount of chicken in, but the real stars in this are the little bits of flavourful veggies and herbs. A couple of people asked me to write some vegetarian recipes. This would be just as good and filling with the meat left out. Simple as that. Maybe add a teaspoon of paprika to recover the flavour if omitting chorizo. The fennel keeps it fresh and summary, whilst working really nicely on the sort of opposite end of the flavour spectrum from the chorizo.
I also mainly used things we already had. So if you’re copying this, or “following my recipe” as people say, you don’t need any fancy risotto rice and you could totally adapt which veggies you use, too. This is MY paella. Customize!
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads.
1 litre vegetable stock.
1 onion, chopped.
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped.
2 spring onions, finely chopped.
1/4 fresh fennel. The vegetable not the seeds. Chopped.
1/2 a red sweet pepper, chopped.
Approx 200g long grain rice. (Allow for roughly 60g per person)*
Chopped chorizo – I used about 4 inches from a ring sausage.
Chicken breast – I used about 250g, chopped in to various sized pieces.
Handful of fresh peas.
Handful of fresh chopped coriander.
Handful of fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley.
Salt and pepper.
Wedge of fresh lemon.
1 – Prepare the saffron by steeping in about 5 tablespoons of the stock for 20 minutes (do this first, and it should be ready to mash with the back of a spoon in to a paste by the time you’ve prepared everything else for cooking).
2 – In a large deep heavy frying pan, heat a little olive oil to soften the onions in. Once the onions are clear (don’t brown – keep the heat low), add the garlic and stir for a minute.
3 – Add the fennel, all but 1 tablespoon of the spring onion, the red pepper and the chorizo. Stir until the veggies are softening and coated in the colour and flavour from the chorizo. (or paprika if substituting).
4 – Add your saffron paste, and the rice. Coat the rice in the moisture coming off of the vegetables until it starts to crackle a little – like when cooking risotto.
5 – Add the chicken to fry off slightly, and pour in just enough stock to cover the rice (about 2-3 ladles).
6 – On a medium heat, let the rice absorb the stock. It will slowly, gradually swell as it takes on the water and fluffs up. Be patient. Mine took about 20 minutes until it hit the really obvious turning point. Keep gradually adding liquid once it gets absorbed.
7 – Once the rice is looking cooked (taste it to make sure it isn’t crunchy – although a little bite is nice and will stop it going gloopy), add the peas and a squeeze of the lemon wedge. Stir well to combine everything.
8 – Add the fresh herbs right at the end, once the heat is off. Serve with some olives and crisp leafy salad.
Seeing as I’m “just practicing” and all, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to style the table a little, with my lovely Hornsea ‘Saffron’ bowl, and these fabulous silver ‘Apostle’ spoons I inherited from my grandma.
So. How am I doing, gang? Better photos? Easy enough to follow recipes?