Paella with friends

You might have guessed from the title – I’ve been enjoying the annual visit of friends who have a house in Saint-Chinian.  We had some wonderful meals and days out, and together we have cooked and eaten a lot of delicious food!! 🙂 I don’t know how, but I did manage not to gain a huge amount of weight in the process – perhaps it was the hot weather!?

My friends enjoy food as much as I do, and one day we decided to try and cook paella.  There is a stall in Saint-Chinian market which sells perfectly good paella, but we had a sneaking suspicion that a home-cooked paella could be at least as good if not better

On my cookery book shelf I have a book called Catalan Cuisine (Europe’s Last Great Culinary Secret) by Colman Andrews.  The author gives a number of recipes for Valencian paella, which is not strictly speaking a Catalan dish, but one which has been enthusiastically adopted by the people of Catalunya.  We decided to try the straightforward Valencian Paella, for which rabbit and chicken are used – no seafood here!  You can read an article by Colman Andrews about paella here – he also gives a recipe for a vegetable paella as part of the article.

Our ingredients were 250g rabbit, cut into pieces by the butcher, and 750g chicken, also cut into pieces by the same butcher.  I love my butcher in Saint-Chinian!  I sometimes wonder what I’ll do when he retires!  We also used some chorizo, which was not listed in the recipe, but we felt like it.

Some of the ingredients used for our paella

Some of the ingredients used for our paella

The recipe also called for one chopped onion, three tomatoes, olive oil, 500g of assorted beans (we used broad beans, French beans and a type of flat bean), a sprig of rosemary and 500g of short grain rice.  We also made up 1.2 litres of chicken stock.

More ingredients for our paella

More ingredients for our paella

If you have read Colman Andrews’ article, you’ll know how important it is to use the right kind of rice for your paella.  Long grain rice just won’t do – you’ll have to find the right kind of short grain rice, or use risotto rice.  Where I live I I can find paella rice in almost every supermarket and grocery store – lucky me! 🙂

Paella seems to take its name from the dish in which it is cooked, although in Spain, outside of Catalan territory, the pan is called a paellera, and in Valencia the pan is called a caldero.  I’m sure there are reasons for that!! 🙂  The pan is almost as important as the rice – it has to be wide and shallow, to allow the rice to cook through evenly.

Paella pan

Paella pan ready for action

We started off the cooking by browning the rabbit and the chicken pieces in some olive oil.

Browning the meats

Browning the meats

After the meat was nicely browned and had been removed from the pan, the chopped onion was added and cooked in the remaining fat until golden .

Cooking the onions

Cooking the onions

The tomatoes, which had been peeled, seeded and chopped, were added to the onions and cooked until they had softened.

Tomatoes and onions cooking together

Tomatoes and onions cooking together

Meantime the beans and chorizo had been prepared.

ingredients all prepared

Ready for action!

The beans went in first:

beans added to the paella pan

Beans ahoy!

Then came the chorizo:

beans'n'chorizo

 

All topped up with the chicken stock:

IMG_2593a

Ooops!

It was at that point that we realised we might be in a bit of trouble! 🙂  The pan might not be quite large enough to hold all our ingredients!!  The rice was next:

Adding the rice

Adding the rice

Once it was all in, the pan looked extremely full:

Almost there!

Almost there!

The meat and rosemary were tucked in, and the pan brought gently to the boil.  Somehow we managed it without making an unholy mess all over the cooker!  If you are going to try this at home, be sure to use gentle heat to avoid burning the rice.  Once it had cooked for about 10 minutes. we covered the pan with aluminium foil and turned the heat to its lowest setting.  Then we had a well-earned glass of wine while we waited!!

Waiting....

Waiting….

The wait was difficult, the smells ever so tempting.  When the cover finally came off, after about 35 minutes, the paella looked like this:

The finished paella

The finished paella

The rice was perfectly cooked and the flavour was divine.  The recipe notes stated the quantity to be enough for 6-8 as an appetizer and 4-6 as a main course.  There were six of us, and despite our best efforts there were plenty of (delicious) leftovers!

It was a truly wonderful dish, and one which I’ll be making again!!

Advertisements

Cooking with friends and All that Jazz

A few weeks ago a friend told me about a dinner & concert to take place at Chateau St Jacques d’Albas, near Laure Minervois.  The performance was to be by the James Pearson Trio, known for their appearances at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London and the theme for the evening was the music of Oscar Peterson.  Chateau St Jacques d’Albas is a little outside the village of Laure Minervois, and has been beautifully restored by Graham and Beatrice Nutter, the current owners.  The evening started with aperitifs in the domaine’s tasting room, from where we filed into the next room, which was set up for the concert.  A beautiful Steinway concert grand took pride of place.  We selected seats on the gallery overlooking the room, to get a better look at the musicians.
The musicians were James Pearson on piano,
Sam Burgess on double bass,
and Pedro Segundo on drums.
We listened to one set before dinner, which was served in another beautiful room next door.
Large glass doors at both ends made this a wonderfully light and airy room.  Dinner was a tomato and mackerel terrine, followed by a very tasty main course, although I’m not sure what it was (could have been a saute de veau).  Pudding was delicious, a slice of brioche or bread topped with blueberries and some sort of syrup and caramel.  By then the light was not good enough for a picture, sorry, and in any case the dessert disappeared rather rapidly! 🙂

After dinner we returned to our seats for the second part of the evening, another set of fantastic music!  The guys really went all out and you really could tell why they are regularly playing at one of the most famous jazz clubs in the world.

Apologies for the poor video quality, but I think you’ll get an idea of what the music was like.  Two more pictures from the concert below, nice cufflinks, James!

And now for the latest in my series of “Cooking with Friends” posts.  I’m writing this a second time, as somehow wordpress managed to lose all my text and pictures :-(.  Our little group got together in Narbonne last week, to try our hand at Paella, and being that our hostess lives very close to Les Halles we had decided to go shopping together for some of the ingredients.  The Halles in Narbonne are an absolute must for any food lover, and I am amazed at the quality and choice each time we go there!  On our way in we passed a stall selling mainly hams, and they have an intriguing slicing machine, which cuts paper-thin slices from great big chunks of dried ham.

The little cups on each ham are for catching little drips of fat!  But we’d come for fish for the Paella, and some fruit and vegetables for the starter and main course.  We settled on squid, mussels and prawns, but not the tuna, tempting as it was.  We’ll leave that for another time!

For starter we’d decided on making Gazpacho, so we needed cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onion.  For dessert a Gazpacho of a different kind was on the menu, made with fruit:  strawberries, red currants, peaches, water melon, charentais melon.

Once everything was unpacked back at the ranch, many hands set to to make short work of the preparations.  The most interesting dish was the Paella: first chicken thighs were fried in the large pan (and set aside), followed by the fish and chorizo (and set aside), followed by the vegetables (peppers, garlic, tomatoes).  Then the reserved ingredients were added to the pan and everything mixed & evenly distributed.

Special paella seasoning was added, along with the strained stock from the mussels, which had been steamed open in advance.  Finally in went the rice and then the dish was set to simmer on the stove.

While we waited for the Paella to cook, it was time for a glass of wine, and the Gazpacho.  Doesn’t it look beautiful with that drizzle of basil oil?  There were crutons to go with the soup too!

After a little wait, and let me say this – it was worth every minute, came the Paella, beautifully decorated with the prawns and some mussels!

It looked pretty good on the plate too, and tasted every bit as good.  I’m sorry to torture you, but even as I write I am salivating, and it’s not been long since lunch!  In case you are wondering, the stand the pan is on is a special gas burner for Paella, but since it was a bit too windy we decided to cook it indoors – just to show that you can always improvise!

Once we’d had our fill of the main course we had barely room for dessert, but the fruit Gazpacho was wonderfully light and refreshing.

And on our shopping trip someone had spied a red fruit sorbet, which went perfectly with the cold soup!