Before I start writing a post for this blog, I also browse through my old photos as well as the more recent ones. There’s always a throwback in there which for some reason has either escaped my noticing it, or has lost its turn to be replaced in line with a new recipe or an exciting book review. There’s nothing I like best other than to spend my winter afternoons and early evenings in my study, reading or writing and sipping hot chocolate. In summer I just can’t get my mind to concentrate much. Aprile dolce dormire, the Italians say, dolce dormire roughly meaning a sweet sleep. So while C&T HQ keeps on working on the writing, recipes and other miscellaneous photos, I can spend some time sorting through my archives.
Continue reading Quick Lentil Salad →
When Rick Stein published his latest book, and was coming over to Guildford for a book signing, I had the flu. Typical. When J saw that I just couldn’t make it, he went to the venue for me with my copy, making sure I wouldn’t miss the autograph part. I would have like to say hello to Mr. Stein myself, but that’s how life is sometimes.
I have not been able to cook much from Rick Stein’s book Spain, but I have found a recipe which inspired me to make a version of his Paella Valenciana. I have changed a few things here and there primarily because I didn’t have some of the ingredients. So I raided the fridge to see what I could find. It was a bit touch and go; I wasn’t confident that this would work, so I asked J for some advice. If you decide to try this make sure to read the recipe before. It’s really simple mind you, but the steps are very important.
Paella is ideal for a supper party. With these quantities you will have enough for 6 people with some left-overs. This dish is very easy to make; it just requires a bit of looking after…
Before I go on I would just like to say something about paella in general. Although it is not a risotto, so no continuous stirring is needed, you still need to check that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. So make sure to stir and scrape the rice from the bottom of the pan once in a while. Thus ended my rant. You will need:
- 500g boneless chicken thighs, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 500g paella rice (available in supermarkets)
- 1 large onion, chopped in large dice
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1.25 litres chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 teaspoons saffron, steeped in warm water and sieved*
- 240g dried chickpeas, cooked (or 410g can drained and washed under cold water)
- 400g polpa di pomodoro (or large can whole tomatoes cut in chunks)
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (Do not use too much or it *will* taste so soapy!)
- Place the chicken in a bowl and season it well with a little salt and as much pepper (approximately ½ a teaspoon each is ok) as you like. Mix well. When you think you have enough seasoning, heat a large ovenproof pan. I use a large cast-iron one – a favourite of mine. Using a tablespoon or so of olive oil (not extra virgin), brown the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and wrap these in some kitchen foil to keep warm. Set aside until needed.
- If see the need add another tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and tip in the onion, garlic and paprika, and stir. After 5 minutes or so add the polpa di pomodoro. Let the bottom of the pan de-glaze for a few more minutes. Now add the green pepper, cooked chickpeas, frozen peas. Mix everything together, add the stock, rosemary and the saffron infused water.* You just need the water here; that’s where the flavour is.
- It’s time to add the rice, and stir this into the stock. Scatter the browned chicken pieces onto the rice and leave it be. Simmer on a medium/high heat for around 5 minutes, then turn the heat low and leave it for another 15 minutes or so, that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
- When you see that the rice has absorbed the stock, turn off the heat and cover the pan with a clean dish cloth for a few moments. At this point it’s ok if your guests turn up a bit late! Fluff up the rice with a fork before serving.
Please note that the above photo was taken before any fluffing occurred, in case you’re asking. Enjoy.
During the first weeks of summer I read somewhere that Rick Stein was publishing a book about the food of Spain, to accompany his series by the same name on BBC2. What a treat! Excellent. I bought it and then…ta-da…I read that he was going to do a book signing in Guildford. Even more…excellent! So I did a thorough read of most of the recipes in the book and counted the days. In the meantime J and I moved to a new place and J’s dad flew in to help us with this move. In all the excitement I got sick. Typical. Not even the flu jab worked. As I resigned myself to the fact that I was only in possession of a mere unsigned copy, J offered to go to the town centre and get it signed for me. So sweet. So as I lay on the couch, fever going up and down driving me crazy, J was having all the fun, standing in a long queue/line, clutching my precious book. Mr. Stein kindly signed my book, commenting to J that it was heavily annotated or something like that. I like Rick’s simple but creative approach to food. Pity I didn’t get to meet him.
So inspired by Rick’s book Spain, I tried an accompaniment – not the usual first recipe to try from a new publication, but it appeared good on paper and I decided to give it a go. It’s not a main meal I think, but it makes a good snack for a BBQ or a picnic – hot or cold, your choice. A very simple but very tasty dish, with some variations peppered here and there. You could leave the pancetta out if you’re vegetarian, but for me it would have that something missing, if you know what I mean. And it’s one way of making J eat more veg! Here it goes.
- 230g green lentils, cooked as per packet instructions. (Don’t throw away the cooking liquid.)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 whole head of garlic, peeled and sliced
- 2 smallish onions, peeled and chopped
- 200g carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 100g pancetta or back bacon
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 120ml white wine
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
Cook the lentils, use a sieve on a bowl to reserve the cooking liquid, and set them aside. Pour the olive oil into a wide and shallow pan and warm it through. Add the chopped garlic, onions and carrots and cook over medium heat for around 15 to 20 minutes, when the vegetables are softened.
Add the pancetta or bacon and toss it with the vegetables for 5 minutes. Time to add the paprika, tomatoes and wine, and let everything simmer happily until the liquid is reduced and slightly thickened.
Topple the cooked lentils and 150ml of the reserved liquid into the pan. Add the parsley, some salt and pepper to taste, let these simmer for 5 minutes and serve. Serves 6-8 people easily.