GROW FOOD slow food Have your garden and eat it too. A practical guide to organic gardening in the sub-tropics with step-by-step instructions and delicious seasonal recipes. Come with me too on some of my travels in Australia, Europe, Asia and beyond.

We’re on a Spanish theme with two fabulous recipes that I cook when I have some grilled capsicum in the fridge.

Paella is a dish I have been making for many years and one that definitely improves with practice.  This is the poor man’s version in the Catalan style.  Every region, every town and just about every family will have it’s own, but this is mine.  It is best kept simple – with just a few ingredients – just make sure you use the best and freshest.  You can add all kinds of meat and seafood but I keep it cheapest and simplest with a good free-range chicken and a kilo of fresh mussels.

NOTE:  There is no substitute for a good paella pan and home made stock.

1 free range chicken, cut into 16 equal pieces (the flavour comes from chicken with bone in it)
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can crushed tomato (or fresh if really ripe)
1 small handful of rice per person
NOTE:  Calasparra rice is best, but not always available.  Substitute with white medium grain – I find arborrio goes too gluggy.
1 litre+ good chicken stock
1 glass of white wine
500 g cleaned mussels
Few strands of saffron
1 tsp paprika
1 cup peas
Salt to taste
Handful of grilled capsicum pieces

  1. Fry chicken pieces in olive oil until golden, remove from pan
  2. Fry onion until soft, then add garlic
  3. Add rice and saffron, stir
  4. Return chicken and add half of stock and can of tomatoes
  5. Add salt and pepper
  6. Cook until rice is just cooked with rest of stock.  Chicken will be cooked by then too.
  7. In separate pan cook mussels until open, cook dry WITOUT WATER – their juices will come out when they open which gives the paella flavour.  When mussels are open add to paella, with their juices, and stir through.
  8. Add peas and handful finely chopped parsley.

NOTE: It is sometime s difficult to get mussels to open if you add them to the paella raw – this way they are guaranteed to open properly and you still have their liquor to flavour the paella.

Adjust seasoning and serve decorated with strips of grilled capsicum.  Their smoky flavour gives an added dimension to the finished dish.

NOTE:  A crusty bottom to the paella is desirable, BUT NOT BURNT – this is where you tread a fine line.  The way I have overcome this is by freezing small containers of stock and placing one in the middle of the paella when it is cooking (Please don’t read this Jamie or Nigella!)  This prevents the rice from burning while the iced stock slowly melts and prevents the rice from burning.  IT STILL HAS A DELICIOUS CRUSTY BOTTOM.

I recently asked my family what was their favourite dish that I make and I was greeted with a loud chorus of PAELLA!