a frying pan christening, with paella

 

paella & a shiny new pan

When it comes to cooking I’m a sucker for shiny things. Actually if the truth be known, my love of pretty shiny things goes well beyond food…my newest favourite shoes: red patent leather stilettos, are a case in point. But back to food, some of my most treasured kitchen equipment has the double bonus of being good to look at. For my dream kitchen there are a few items that I’ve always lusted after, a heavy duty dishwasher, plenty of space for guests to mill around and share in the cooking process, and a large collection of shiny copper saucepans.

Until recently I had thought that my copper pan fantasy was in the far distant future, but happily that all changed a few weeks ago. Peter’s of Kensington, one of my favourite Sydney cookware shops was having a warehouse sale so with visions of a new dinner set, I ventured out into the discount shopping wilderness that is Alexandria to hunt out a bargain. But fate ended up playing a different card. Apart from a few Pillivuyt items, dinnerware was scarce on the ground. Shiny saucepans and frying pans, however, were everywhere.

So what’s a girl to do?? Visions of my dream kitchen flashed in front of my eyes and before I knew it I was walking towards my car laden with a set of three shiny new stainless saucepans to match my stockpot. But that’s not all dear reader, at the top of the pile was the most gorgeous sparkly 32cm frying pan with a sleek copper base and stainless steel interior with a matching lid so shiny it looked more like a mirror. And all this for less than half price, needless to say I was a happy girl.

As luck would have it I was having guests over that night for a pescetarian feast and part of my justification to myself for buying the pan was that it would be perfect for cooking the planned main course of stuffed squid. But that afternoon when the time for squid cooking drew nigh, I found myself reaching not for my shiny new pan. No, the thought of sullying my new treasures gleaming surfaces with tomatoes and oil just didn’t seem right. So instead my trusty old cast iron wok was called into action.

That evening as my guests were sharing the fruits of my labour, I found myself neglecting to tell them about my latest acquisition and I realised that maybe I had a problem. I needed a plan to help me get over my pan phobia, I mean in a kitchen as big as my current one there’s no room for show pony equipment. Everything must pull its weight. So a plan was hatched. What I needed was to celebrate the first use of my shiny new frypan. To have a launch party or a christening as it were.

My thoughts turned to searching out a suitably celebrational dish to cook for my pans maiden voyage. And it came to me, paella was the perfect choice. Not only was my new pan the perfect size and shape to carry out the task, it would get to act as a serving vessel as well and be the star at the centre of the table. With the main event chosen, all that was left was to plan a side salad to act as a fresh and crunchy support: grated zucchini salad. Perfect.

Being a casual Sunday night dinner with my dear friend Missy Helgs I was tempted to skip dessert. But a brush with some plump passionfruit when I was shopping for this meal, lead to visions of passionfruit sorbet and dessert was back on the agenda. Unfortunately I was having a temporary insanity moment, forgetting that my icecream machine is at the repairers. So when I returned to my senses and realised that a frozen dessert was off the agenda, plan B was called upon. A refreshingly light passionfruit jelly seemed like the perfect substitute, served with a healthy dollup of natural yoghurt…all good things.

a fryingpan christening celebration dinner
paella
vaguely spanish zucchini salad
passionfruit jelly with natural yoghurt

 

paella
serves 6-8
Adapted from a combination of the June 06 Australian Gourmet Traveller Spanish inspired supplement and ‘the dance of the paella’ by Sean Moran in Let it Simmer.

The first time I made paella was at a class at the Sydney fish market when I discovered the magical ingredient that is smoky Spanish paprika. A world apart from you dull supermarket paprika, the smoky stuff is bursting with flavour and vibrantly coloured and really is the critical ingredient in a good paella. In Sydney it is available from Herbie’s Spices and Simon Johnson.

A few years ago I went all out and tracked down some authentic Spanish calasparra rice. While the results were good, these days I tend to use the far more readily available Italian Arborio rice.

Feel free to vary the meat and seafood to suit your taste. In Spain they use a wide variety of ingredients for paella depending on the region. Think rabbit, pork, squid, crab or even snails. 

2 chicken thighs, sliced into thin ribbons
1/2t cayenne pepper
4t Spanish smoky paprika
4T olive oil
2 chorizo, thinly sliced
1 large red onion, finely diced
3 large tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 red capsicum (peppers), charred, skins peeled sliced into thin ribbons
400g Arborio or other risotto rice (of Spanish calasparra)
2 large pinches saffron threads, soaked in 1/4C hot water for at least 10mins
1/2C dry white wine
1.5L (6C) chicken stock
Small handful green beans, topped
6 large green prawns, body peeled and deveined, head and tail intact
6 clams (vongole) soaked in cold water for 10mins
6 black mussels, scrubbed and debearded.
lemon cheeks, to serve

Combine cayenne pepper, 2t paprika and 2T oil in a small bowl. Add chicken, season with salt & pepper and toss to coat. Cover and marinate overnight in the refrigerator or as long as you’ve got.

Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan and keep warm.

Heat remaining oil in a 35cm paella pan or a 32cm copper based shiny new frypan over a medium high heat. Add chorizo and cook for approx 5mins or until golden brown. Remove chorizo with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Add chicken to the pan and cook until browned all over. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and add to the reserved chorizo. Place onion in the pan and lower the heat to medium low. Cook stirring periodically for 10mins or until onion is softened. Add tomatoes, capsicum and garlic, and remaining paprika and cook for a few more minutes. Rain in the rice and stir until rice is well coated in the vegetable mixture. Add wine and stir to deglaze the pan.

Return the chorizo and chicken to the pan and stir through with 3C hot stock. Allow to simmer briskly for 10mins. Shake pan periodically to mix but do not stir. When the rice is starting to soften and absorb the liquid add 2 more cups of stock season with salt & pepper and sprinkle over the beans, prawns, clams and mussels. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 15 – 20mins or until rice is cooked. If the mixture starts to look dry pour over remaining stock or add hot water.

As each mussel and clam opens and the prawns change colour to opaque remove and keep warm. When the rice is cooked, return seafood to the pan, arranging prettily. Cover pan and remove from the heat. Allow to stand for 10mins to allow the crust to release from the bottom of the pan.  Top with lemon cheeks and serve the pan at the table for everyone to help themselves.

 

vaguely Spanish zucchini salad
Serves 4

Zucchini or courgettes are one of my favourite veg. While they are amazing thinly sliced and BBQed to buttery perfection, I also love them either grated or shaved in salads. If you can get a few different types of zucchini it’s good to add some variety.

The link with Spain is somewhat tenuous for this salad. Surely a few anchovies and a bit of Spanish sherry vinegar count for something?

2 small green zucchini, grated
2 small yellow zucchini, grated
½ bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
2T sherry vinegar
1T lemon juice
6T extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovies, very finely chopped
small handful lemon thyme leaves

Combine vinegar, lemon juice, anchovy and oil in a bowl and season. Toss through zucchini and allow to stand for at least 10mins. When ready to serve toss through parsley leaves arrange on a serving platter or salad bowl and sprinkle with thyme.

 

passionfruit jelly
serves 4

Apparently passionfruit are in season now but that hasn’t stopped them being super expensive. This is a great little dessert when you feel like something light sweet and refreshing to finish a meal.

1C passionfruit pulp (Approx 10 passionfruit)
80g sugar
1C water
2 leaves gelatine, titanium strength
natural yoghurt, crème fraiche, or icecream to serve

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer for a few minutes until sugar is definitely dissolved. Meanwhile soak gelatine in cold water to soften.

Stir passionfruit through sugar then squeeze out excess moisture from the gelatine and stir through the passionfruit mix until well combined. Allow to cool for ten minutes then divide mixture between four 1/2C capacity moulds or ramekins. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve dip base of mould in hot water then invert onto a plate or bowl. Serve with a dollup of your chosen accompaniment.

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