Friday, January 17, 2014
First published Monday, 6th October 2008. We had paella as one of the dishes during the festive season, it was just like this and very good.
This morning I watched a rabbit haring across the yard. I'm guessing s/he was avoiding the hunters, out in force, well all the time it seems but certainly from sun up. The sun is just going down now and I can still hear shots. I'm rather hoping they're shooting at the rude mushroom pickers who invaded my patch an hour ago but that might just be a little too serendipitous.
Anyway, I was taught how to make paella, in Valencia, by locals and they positively searched out the boniest bits of rabbit and chicken to start their cooking because paella is a poor persons' dish and nothing but the scrawny bits of animal would give the right flavour apparently.
And what about the poor animal? A shrug. Animals are for eating, if you can get hold of one. However, they did concede, that if you were very poor (or mad) you could make a reasonable paella without the killing, because the really really essential parts of the meal were the rice, beans and saffron. The rice should be a shorter grain, the Spanish have their own rice which is ideal but risotto or even round rice will do. The saffron should be as liberal as you can afford.
In honour of my small friend Peter (or maybe Petra?) I decided to make paella for my dinner.
It's the easiest thing in the world to make, ideal for sharing and great for picnics if you have a knack with a fire (or one of those handy gas rings).
For this one I fried off a small onion, some garlic, a handful of chopped pumpkin pieces, enough rice (a bit too much in fact for one, but it'll be fine for breakfast) and some rosemary, then added enough boiling water to cover. Give it all a stir.
Add some beans. I had fresh shelled haricot. If you need to use dried beans they'll need cooking before you get to this stage. Frozen ones are fine.
Chuck in the saffron. I never bother to soak it first, but you might if you wanted to. Make sure to put the soaking water in the pot too! Other herbs you might add are oregano or basil. I also popped in a little lemon thyme which was rather nice but don't overdo it.
Then to mimic the Spanish habit of including found food (like snails for example) in went half a dozen fresh chestnuts, peeled and chopped into quarters, a small handful of green nasturtium seeds and a couple of mild green chillies chopped up. A few mushrooms wouldn't go amiss in this autumnal selection but I didn't fancy them. Season with salt and pepper.
Let everything cook, stirring from time to time until the rice is tender and moisture nearly gone. You may have to add a little extra water during cooking if it's drying up too quickly. Five minutes before you estimate it will be done, add a couple of tomatoes cut in wedges and just before serving stir in a big handful of chopped parsley.
Serve with lemon wedges and eat with a spoon from the pan.
Friday, January 03, 2014
It's proving harder than I expected to get back into this. On New Year's eve I planned a sumptuous three course meal but the arrival of welcome visitors at the last minute morphed it into several bottles of wine and a single course from the plan. We took pictures, one of which is above, a West Indian inspired collation originally planned as a smaller plated starter. Filo (fillo, phyllo?) pastry tartlets filled with ackee, served with a hot and sweet red pepper sauce and salty black beans seasoned with toasted sesame oil on a bed of shredded cucumber.
Immediately revealed are two things that need improving. For a 'posh' dinner this has more of the presentation style of the 1980s than this century. Secondly, there isn't really a publishable recipe. All the individual components are very simple concoctions of a small range of pantry ingredients, out of the box cooking for ease and convenience. To meet my own expectations for the blog with satisfaction it's going to take a bit more dedication to detail which in turn has to be something is enjoyably inspirational for a blog post - a circular set of dependencies that's going to need a crank handle to get going.
Still, one of my presents has just that very thing. A spiral vegetable cutter which does just what it says it will do with the added bonus of amusingly shaped bits of leftover vegetable to give a puerile snigger at the end of work.
Not a new tool for many of course but it's fun to use and handled with restraint will add something novel to our meals. I'm looking forward to trying out some established techniques and seeing where else it can be applied.