A GARDEN PAELLA
The hot weather has brought out the backwoodswoman in me, and for the last few days I've been enjoying a Ray Mears-type relationship with the barbecue. I do not need to don khaki clothing for this, nor erect a shelter, for I already have one, in the form of The Cabana (also known as the Loggia, Stable, Garden Hut Thing, Summerhouse etc). The Cabana, originally erected to house a hot tub and/or pizza oven, was built last summer, in pouring rain, by Hugh, a rather brawny and strangely philosophical brickie. I had about three days enjoying it before the weather turned and I had to wait almost a whole 'nother year go by before I could sit out in it again. Now it is resplendent with beaded curtains, a heater, iPod and speakers and basketwork bull's head a la Picasso. It's a pleasant place to enjoy a chilled glass of something as if affords a view back into the garden, towards the house. Occasionally, its serenity is disturbed by the rabbit, or cat, Lulu, who does amazing jumps from the back wall onto the garden table.
The heatwave means that I want to spend as little time slaving over a hot oven, and as much time idling beside a flaming barbecue, prodding something interesting while imbibing a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio. It has been a long-held ambition of mine to cook a paella over the coals, traditional style, and tonight, after watching England's utterly shameful performance in the World Cup, I lived the dream - unlike the England football team.
Unlike some families, where the man takes charge of the barbecue, caveman-style, the fire is definitely my domain. I can light a decent fire, get it going and keep it going without any assistance, thank you, Ray. I do not bother with traditional barbie fare of pink sausages and suspect burgers. The other night, for example, I roasted a whole marinaded chicken. Need I add that it was delicious?
So, back to the paella. There is only one crucial ingredient for paella and that is smoked paprika, which is widely available these days thanks to the Sainted Delia. This wonderful spice gives paella its distinctive smoky fragrance and flavour and without it, well, it's just not a paella. Even a fish paella needs this kick to give it an authentic flavour.
I chopped half and onion and half a red pepper finely, sliced 2 cooking chorizos, stripped the rest of the chicken carcass of meat (making a stock from the bones), and defrosted some king prawns. Paella is a wonderful dish as you can basically chuck in whatever you like, and each region of Spain has its own specialities.
Here are the quantities for a basic paella to feed 4 as a main course:
7 tbsp olive oil
120g cooking chorizo, sliced
1 large green pepper, finely chopped
2 large spanish onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
250g calasparra (paella) rice - or use risotto rice
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
900ml hot chicken stock
1 lemon in wedges
salt and pepper
Fry the chorizo in the oil and then add the onion, pepper and garlic and cooked until soft and sweet. Add the rice and stir to ensure all the strands are coated in the oily mix. Then add the stock, bring to the boil and let simmer for about 20 mins, or until the rice is cooked. At this point, you can add additional ingredients, such as prawns, chicken livers, mussels, beans, peas..... Serve with lemon wedges. Cooking over an open fire is not obligatory, but it is fun!