I generally like this part of the year, when it’s all about spring and new growth and we say goodbye to winter. March on the whole has given us such fantastic weather (oops, best try to forget last week where winter has seemed to make another appearance as we woke up one morning to a fluttering of snow), that you could almost start to taste Summer.
I’m sure we all have varied memories of good summer eating, but for me it can be summed up by sitting on the patio sipping a chilled glass of wine and eating a dish of grilled sardines, with a simple tomato salad to accompany. This all takes me back to my summers spent in Spain, where sunshine just seems to radiate out of the food. I so miss how the tomatoes taste of tomato instead of the watery imitations we get here!! Anyone else?
One dish that I cook through out the year to brighten my day with memories of summer and good times is Paella. Paella is often regarded by many non-spaniards as the national dish, to the Spanish it is a regional dish from Valencia, though its popularity means it is served on menu’s around Spain. The word Paella actually comes from the type of dish it is cooked in, a specialised shallow pan with two handles. Now nothing beats a paella that is cooked in a traditional pan over an open flame, but with limits to both my cupboard space, time and availability of flame (my cooker is electric! ugh!) I was keen to find an alternative.
I have found a version of this traditional Spanish dish that gives you a little taste of the Costa with minimal effort, based on this recipe from the BBC Archive (a great source for recipes when you some ingredients and little inspiration!) with a few tweaks.
250g/9oz cherry tomatoes
1 mild spanish onion or red onion, finely chopped,
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
300g/10oz risotto/ paella rice – if you can get paella rice it does work better.
6 chicken pieces – I use mixture of thigh and leg.
200g/7oz chorizo, thickly sliced
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 litre/1¾ pints hot chicken stock
pinch of saffron strands
8 large raw prawns
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Place the cherry tomatoes in a roasting tin and sprinkle over the onion and olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes until the tomatoes are softened, then add the garlic and roast for a further 5 minutes.
Stir in the rice, chicken, chorizo, rosemary, chicken stock, saffron and some salt and pepper, mixing well together. Return to the oven for 20 minutes.
Stir in the prawns and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through.
This is so simple to prepare, it is perfect for a mid-week tea. Sometimes I omit the prawns if I struggle to get hold of them, but I would suggest always using chorizo as this oozes its paprika oils it gives it the paella the unmistakable Spanish flavour.
To some this may be a classed as a tragic imitation of the authentic national dish, but to me it gives me a taste of many happy memories, and it’s one of my hubby’s favourite dishes too!
Disfrutas (enjoy!) x