Probably the most authentic paella I have cooked

I cook paella quite a bit, though I have been told what I cook usually isn’t paella, but a rice dish!

This time I wasn’t even trying, however the end result was rather good. I admit I cheated slightly and used a Waitrose Paella Paste jar, but I think I got the cooking right as the taste and texture was reminiscent of the excellent paella I had from Riceminster last week.

It was towards the end of the month, so the fridge needed restocking and there wasn’t too much in the cupboards. I had decided to cook some cod croquettes, salmon and serve it with rice. However we didn’t have any plain (well basmati) rice left, but I did have some paella rice. I also had a har of Waitrose Paella Paste.

I quite like the jar and when I have used it in the past it has worked well, never quite authentic, but still tasty.

As I said there wasn’t too much in the fridge, so in a large frying pan, I cooked some smoked bacon (pancetta) and a chopped red onion. I would usually use some peppers and mushrooms, but there was none in the fridge. I did check to see if I had a tin of beans I could use, but though I had tinned lentils and kidney beans, there was nothing else.

Once the onions were softened, I added the paella rice and stirred the rice around until mixed in with the onions and bacon. I then added the Waitrose Paella Paste and stirred that in.

I then added chicken stock, made using a Knorr Chicken Stock Pot, covering all the rice. I then stirred and then left alone. Well not quite, as I added some frozen peas about 10 minutes later.

I once got “told off” for stirring my paella, so now I just as advised leave it to cook.

I think what I did this time however, was not to add further stock and just let the paella cook turning down the heat slightly as the stock reduced. I did think I should add more stock, but left it alone.

I served it up and I did like how it came out. I had mine with cod croquettes and salad.

paella

As for the taste and texture it was very similar to the paella I had from the Temple Quay market from Riceminster and those I have had in Spain. I think this was one of the best paella dishes I have cooked, certainly one of the most authentic tasting.

Time for some paella

There are some street food stalls which serve amazing food and I see them on a regular basis, but for whatever reason when I am decided and choosing what to eat, they don’t get picked and I go to another stall. I think to myself I will go there when I come back to this street food market. Riceminster who sell traditional Valencian Paella alas fall into this trap.

Today I was at the Bristol Temple Quay street food market and it was rather busy, busier than it was last week.

Bristol Temple Quay Market

There was a range of stalls, some familiar faces from last week, but plenty of others who were there this week and not last time. I was pleased to see it was busy, as that means there is a good chance that it will keep going and not be disappear. I was also slightly concerned as I was in a bit of a rush and most stalls had long queues.

Having seen the Facebook post about the market I had initially thought that I would hit High Steaks: Delicious Argentine inspired steak sandwiches using the best locally sourced beef, topped off with their signature chimichurri. 

Having seen both the ordering queue and the collection queue, I thought, I might not have time and I would have to rush my food. Looking elsewhere I saw that the queue for Ah Ma’s Dumplings was quite short (but there is still a cooking process for pan frying the dumplings). The queue for Riceminster was short as well, and I thought I did enjoy their paella and have been meaning to try their food again, so joined the queue.

Riceminster stall

It moved quickly and there was a choice of a chicken paella or a vegan paella. The only real difference was that the chicken one had chicken in and cost an extra pound, and the vegan one had mushrooms and vegetables.

I ordered the vegan version, I was given the chance to add garlic aioli for another pound, I said no, then lemon and chilli, I opted for just the lemon juice.

Taking it back to the office and eating at my desk I really enjoyed the paella. It was excellent, authentic and very tasty. Maybe a little salty for my tastes, but still really nice.

I thought I had been to Riceminster relatively recently, however back home, checking back through the blog (they weren’t on here) though there is a solitary Instagram photo of some delicious paella  from April 2017.

Had it really been four years since I had ordered food from them? It must have been as I do usually photograph my food. I can’t recall if I had had their paella between then and now, I may have done.

I did enjoy my paella today, so next time when I am looking for something to eat and try to remember get the paella, it’s tasty!

Time for some paella

I do like a good paella, though I have been told a fair few times that what I cook and call paella, isn’t paella.

That I get, I am not trying to cook an authentic Spanish version of paella, but one that we like and find tasty. I have been cooking this dish for a fair few years, but got told once by a Spanish person that what I was cooking wasn’t authentic paella, which is correct, so I normally describe this as a Spanish inspired rice dish.

To make this paella I took my large paella pan added a splash of olive oil.  I then  added some pancetta, diced onion and sliced red pepper. This is then cooked off slightly before I added some mushrooms. Once the onions are softened I add the paella rice and stir it into the onions and peppers. I added a paella mix from Waitrose, but you could, of course, use your own spices, herbs and saffron. I then added some stock.

This is then left to cook, without stirring, definitely without stirring.

In a separate pan I cook the sliced cooking chorizo and add this to the paella when it is nearly cooked. I do a similar thing with the butterflied prawns.

I then finish off with finely chopped parsley and some lemon.

Delicious.

Coping with self-catering in Calpe

Calpe beach and Peñón de Ifach

Having spent another wonderful week in sunny Calpe on the Costa Blanca I was reminded that last year I hadn’t blogged about the challenges I faced. This is one of the reasons I blog, it’s more for me than other people. I think part of the reason I didn’t blog, was at the time we saw this as a one off place to visit and we didn’t intend to return, as we were going to go somewhere new. Last year when I went to Calpe though I did manage to cook some tasty food in the apartment kitchen, due to some “missing” items, I found it challenging. This year I faced similar challenges, however even though I don’t expect to return to Calpe, I am going to note down the issues, as I am sure it will still be useful for visits to other destinations.

My previous experience of self-catering apartments was from the Greek Ionian islands and Cyprus. This was before children, so it was me and my other half. We rarely used the self-catering facilities for cooking, as we would eat out a bit, but it was useful to have a hob, a fridge and a few utensils and crockery. The “kitchen” in the apartments I experience were very minimal and not really sufficient for anything more than snacks and hot drinks. Also the local shopping environment wasn’t exactly great for self-catering, with very small supermarkets.

When we booked our Calpe holiday last year, due to dietary requirements (gluten free) we wanted to ensure we had not only a self-catering kitchen, but a decent enough kitchen for actual real cooking. The apartments at the Esmeralda Suites in Calpe from the brochure images (and Trip Adviser) actually looked okay and much better than what I was use to on previous self-catering holidays abroad.

Esmeralda Suites

This is a brochure image of the kitchen and no we did not get that rack of knives!

Esmeralda Suites Kitchen

So though I did cook and prepare a lot of meals in the kitchen there were some things I wish I had brought with me (and in some cases) weren’t possible to purchase locally.

The main challenge for me was kitchen knives. Now checking a few airline sites it is possible to carry kitchen knives in hold luggage (obviously not in carry on luggage in the cabin). There was a knife provided, but this was very blunt and the handle was cracked. In the end I had to go out to the local supermarket and purchase a replacement. I left the replacement for future guests. What I do wish I had was a proper bread knife. We did buy fresh bread, but it was challenging to cut, even with the new knife. If you like me enjoy fresh salads, having a decent kitchen knife to slice tomatoes or cucumber is essential.

There was a single chopping board, which meant continually washing it up as food was prepared. I have a fair few boards at home and on other (UK) holidays have often taken a chopping board with me.

The washing of the chopping board wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been a washing up bowl for the sink. Now I know this is a very British thing to do, but if you have a sink of washing up water, where do you put other liquids, such as when you drain pasta?

Talking of draining pasta, how do you do drain pasta or vegetables without a sieve or a colander? The kitchen came with a slotted spoon which I used instead.

Though we didn’t use any cans, without a can opener, it would have been a challenge. I was tempted to purchase some of the canned beans that you find in Spain, but they would have come home as there was no opener.

The other thing I found challenging was not having a pair of scissors, doing something as simple as opening a pack of pasta or coffee with just a blunt knife wasn’t fun!

One item that I usually have in the kitchen which was also missing was a pair of tongs, I did struggle now and then to move food from the pan to plates or to turn things in the oven.

The oven was also a challenge, as there was a drip tray and a rack, but no roasting or baking trays. I was resigned to “making” trays out of foil. I did find towards the end of the holiday disposable foil trays that would have been useful.

I did take some stuff with me such as non-stick foil, cling film, food bags, as well as some seasoning and other ingredients. These are available in Spain, but I didn’t want to spend money on things we had at home already.

So here is my list of things I would take with me if I ever return to Calpe.

Kitchen knife
Bread knife
Can opener
Sieve
Cafetière
Spare chopping board
Scissors
Tongs
Baking trays
Foil
Cling film
Food bags

What do you take on your self-catering holidays?

Did not meet expectations

paella

One of the regular stalls at the weekly Temple Quay meeting, but also the Wednesday street food market on Wine Street usually has a really large queue, so I often avoid it, due to time constraints. It usually serves beef chilli, stroganoff and paella. I have no idea of the stall name, as there isn’t one on the stall.

Having a little more time and quite liking the idea of the paella, I decided to join the queue. It did move quite quickly as the staff were quick and efficient at serving.

The paella was cooked on a large paella dish and contained chorizo, chicken, mussels, prawns and squid and was £6.00 a serving. The portion was provide in a plastic takeaway container and was given a garnish of fresh coriander and lemon.

I had quite high expectations about this dish, but alas I was to be somewhat disappointed.

The yellow of the dish came from turmeric, rather than the much more expensive saffron. I wasn’t too surprised by this, as this happens quite often. Even so I did like the flavour of the dish and felt it was very tasty. The dish though, I felt lacked enough of the core ingredients. It had one piece of chicken, two small prawns, a few pieces of squid, but plenty of mussels!

My main disappointment as a result is about value for money, was the dish worth the money I paid for it. I didn’t think it was worth the price and I don’t think I would try the dish or the stall again.

Time for a new pan

paella

I do quite like cooking paella, and though I’ve not talked about it for a while on the blog, it has made regular appearances on the dining table. One thing I have been thinking about for a while was buying a paella pan to cook it in. I have been using a regular frying pan, but the idea behind using a special paella pan, was to ensure a more authentic dish. This would be achieved by having a broader pan, the resulting paella would be shallower than using the regular frying pan. It would also ensure that I didn’t need to stir the paella, which I have been told now is something you don’t do with paella. So when I was out shopping in Bristol recently I treated myself to a new 40cm paella pan.

For my most recent paella and using the new pan for the first time, I took some diced onion, pepper, mushrooms and courgette. In addition I also threw in some diced chorizo to the pan. After heating a splash of olive oil in the pan, I fried the vegetables and chorizo until they were soft.

I use a variety of methods when adding flavour, from making my own seasoning mix using saffron and paprika, to using shop bought seasoning mixes or pastes. For this paella I used the Marks & Spencer’s paella paste, this contains saffron, but also gives the paella a rich fruity flavour. The paste was added to the pan and mixed with the cooked vegetables.

I then added the paella rice. It makes sense to use the right kind of rice when cooking paella, to ensure you get the right texture. This was coated with the rest of the ingredients and then I added some white wine, before adding the stock to cover all the ingredients.

This was then left to cook over a simmering heat for 30-40 minutes, and I didn’t stir. Though after 25 minutes I did add a little more stock to the pan.

In separate pans I cooked the chorizo and the squid. The chorizo I used was the cooking chorizo, sliced into 4-5mm slices. This was cooked off in a medium pan with a little olive oil. They certainly sweat oil out and this combined with the paprika can stain, so be careful. For this paella I used regular squid, this was scored with a sharp knife before been cooked just before serving in a hot frying pan.

The dish was then constructed, the cooked squid and chorizo was placed on top with chunks of lemon, then served.

Delicious, and went down well.

A Wonderful Staff BBQ

Spit Roasted Lamb

The catering students and staff at Gloucestershire College did an outstanding event last week. Every year the college staff get together in an annual barbecue. Now for a lot of people a big event like this means well done burgers, cheap sausages and if you’re lucky a chicken drumstick, still raw in the middle…

Well this staff event was totally different. There were three food stands. The first wasn’t really a barbecue, but was paella. This was a really well cooked paella with huge kings prawns. This was really nice and very tasty, even if it was a but messy shelling the prawns. There was a vegetarian alternative for those that didn’t want to eat fish. I should say (for regular readers of the blog) that it appeared they had stirred their paella…

The barbecue stand had a nice choice of vegetarian kebabs, satay chicken and barbecued pork ribs. The ribs were perfect, the meat fell off the bone and was beautifully tender. So good you could use a knife and fork, so need to get sticky fingers. I didn’t try the chicken as when I arrived at the stand they had run out and were cooking a new batch. The vegetarian kebab was perfectly cooked and the halloumi cheese that was on there alongside the vegetables was delicious.

My favourite stand though was the Moroccan lamb wrap. They had spit roasted a whole lamb and this was served in a wrap with houmous, yoghurt, sliced courgette and chilli. Absolutely delicious. For those that didn’t eat lamb there was a really nice looking butternut squash alternative.

This was outstanding high quality food for a superb event. It was an extra special event this year as our Principal is retiring.

Don’t you dare stir…

Well I have been well and truly told by lots of people never to stir my paella again.

Claire is currently living in Spain.

Fernando is a Lecturer in Spanish at the Open University.


So that means I am very clear now, I don’t stir the paella.

Paella, have it your way

In my most recent blog post on cooking paella I talked about using a different method that I had seen on the television. I did manage to try it out and, yes it did work exactly as planned.

I cooked the vegetables first and then added the rice and the stock, stirred once and then left it.

I was concerned about how it would turn out and was so, oh so tempted to give it a stir now and again… but I didn’t.

So what of the result?

Well the paella was a lot dryer than my usual recipe and I did feel it lacked some flavour compared to previous versions I had cooked. I am guessing though it was more “authentic” and how a paella should be. One of these days I will need to get to Spain and have a proper paella to compare.

Going to try something different…

Simon Hopkinson Cooks Paella

So there I was watching Simon Hopkinson Cooks on More4 and he was cooking paella. The way in which he cooked his dish is different from the way in which I have cooked mine What he did was cook the core ingredients first in the paella pan, then add the fish stock before finally adding the rice. He gave the rice a single stir before leaving it.

I knew that you should try avoiding stirring, but once and then leave it wasn’t something I had done before. Unlike a risotto where you want to break down the starch to make a creamy sauce, you want the rice in a paella to remain whole, hence avoiding stirring. Similarly I added stock as I was cooking the rice, rather than all at once.

I don’t like the way he did the mussels, but that’s not a crucial part of the recipe. He placed them in the dish pointed upwards and then finished the paella in the oven. I can see the benefits of finishing it off in the oven, but not so sure about the mussels.

When he finished his paella he dressed it with a dressing of olive oil, parsley and garlic. I like the idea of the dressing and will certainly try that on my paella.

So the next time I cook paella I am going to change from my usual method and try something different.