With the winter upon us it is getting to my favourite time of year for camping. Yes, it’s cold, but it’s beautiful! Wrap up warm and go prepared, it’s campfire appreciation season! That time of year when the days are still warm, the evenings have a chill, the mornings are frosty and the best part? The campsites are quiet.
This is when the warm inviting glow of a campfire really comes into its own and that time of year when the comfort food comes out. Warming delicious stews, curries, braises, pies, crumbles and some hearty baked eggs for breakfast to warm you up before the sun cracks over the trees to thaw everything out again.
I cooked this paella dish on our last camping trip. My good friend Rob and I got away for a few days R&R and the chance for me to try out a few recipes. Rob’s always a willing guinea pig to try my new dishes on!
The food of Spain is another big love of mine. The Spanish create some beautiful food and use big bold flavours which I really gravitate to. Paella is one of the classics that everyone knows and one of my all-time favourite rice dishes. We (not as often as we would like to) visit Spain to see my wife’s parents David and Jenny who have lived in a little town at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains for many years now so this dish holds a lot of nostalgia for me.
There are beautiful little restaurants on the beaches not far from them. On a Sunday, they put on a massive Paella and all the locals get together to socialise and catch up on the weeks events. It’s a real community affair with a pan so big it takes four people to place it over the fire pit. It evokes in me a real sense of community, sharing and family.
It is this sense of community and sharing that keeps me drawn to cooking and sharing recipes in the hope it brings others together in the same way. If it’s around a campfire…win win!
This is in no way a ‘traditional’ Paella. Recipes are there to make your own and turn into something personal to you. It packs a punch of flavour, fills you up and warms the bones on a cold night!
- 1 large Spanish onion diced
- 4 chopped cloves of garlic
- 1 red capsicum finely diced
- 3 tomatoes diced or half a tin of chopped tomatoes
- Pinch of chilli (optional.) (Not traditional, but mine isn’t. I like the kick of a chilli)
- 1 tbs of paprika
- 1 tsp of turmeric or a good pinch of saffron
- Small handful of chopped coriander (had it lying around to use. It works well with the flavours but again optional)
- ½ tsp fennel seed (cos I put them in everything)
- Glug of olive oil for frying
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups of Arborio rice
- 250g chicken thigh cut into chunks
- 2 chorizo diced into chunks or cut in rounds
- 5 cups of chicken stock
- 200g frozen seafood mix - prawns, mussels and calamari (if you can, sub the frozen mix for prawns in their shells, fresh mussels or NZ green lip mussels in the half shell)
- salt and pepper
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 1 lemon wedged for garnish
- To cook your sofrito put everything in a pan and gently cook until it becomes almost sweet and saucy
- Add the chicken and chorizo and cook until it has some colour
- Add the rice and warm it though with the other ingredients
- Add the stock and give it all a stir till it comes up to a gentle simmer for about 15 minutes (after this if you need to, give the pan a shake, no more stirring - you actually want the bottom of the Paella to develop a crust called a Socarrat)
- Add the seafood in the last 5 minutes of cooking, pushing it lightly into the rice (if using fresh mussels and prawns, arrange the prawns on top and push the mussels into the rice (once open they are ready. If they don’t open don’t eat them) and cover with foil
- Pull off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes to rest, then serve with wedges of lemon