Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Paella Over an Open Fire - Chapter 2

The occasion of occasions, our Charlie's 18th birthday and this was a special request for his ultimate birthday meal. Not surprising really as he had been hassling me for months about cooking a paella. I warned him that I might push the boat out a bit and include some rabbit in the recipe but he was delighted by the idea and so that is how is was to be. It had been nearly two years since I had cooked paella over an open fire when we were camping in the New Forest, so I was as delighted as Charlie.

I pondered over the recipe the night before and resolved to use both chicken and rabbit, plus either mussels or clams, king prawns, chorizo, and the usual capsicum, garlic, onion and saffron. All of this depended on what would be available at the markets on the day.

A trip to the covered market in Oxford (including a visit to my favourite fish monger, Haymans Fisheries), was all it took to satisfy my full list of ingredients (serves 5-6):

3 large chicken thighs
1 whole rabbit (or an extra 3 chicken thighs)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 green pepper
2 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
200g chorizo (2cm cubes)
1 large handful of live mussels
1 large handful of live clams
10-12 frozen shelled tiger prawns
Saffron (about 1/4 tsp)
2 cups of rice (I use basmati as a fluffier alternative to paella rice)
Olive oil
Lemon wedges

You can't rush a good paella. From beginning to end, this took about and hour and a half, and everything was cooked over charcoal briquettes.

First, I prepared all of the vegetables, washed the mussels and clams and cubed the chorizo before filling the Weber chimney starter with the charcoal briquettes. This gave me about 20 minutes to remove the bones from the chicken thighs and remove the flesh from the rabbit. A fairly fiddly task, as there is not a great deal of flesh on a wild rabbit. The loins are fairly easy to remove whole but to get the flesh off the legs requires a small sharp knife and a bit of determination.

Once the briquettes were ready, I put the chicken bones, rabbit carcass, half of the chopped onions and a bit of the garlic in a large pot for the stock. These ingredients were browned off a bit in olive oil before adding about a litre of boiling water. I put a lid on the pot and let it boil vigorously for about 15 minutes. The longer the better of course, but I added a heaped teaspoon of chicken stock powder so I could use it sooner. In the past I have also added chorizo and saffron to the stock pot, but this time I decided to reserve them for the paella pan. I had a couple of spare chicken drumsticks, so I just put them around the edge of the fire to let them slowly grill separately.

While the stock was still boiling away, I pushed it to the side a bit to make room on the hot part of the fire for the paella pan and still allow the stock to simmer.

To make the paella, saute the remaining onions and garlic with the chorizo and saffron in a bit of olive oil in the hot paella pan. then add the chicken and rabbit (cut into cubes) followed by the green pepper and chopped tomatoes.

Once the onions are soft, add the rice and mix thoroughly before adding 4 cups of the stock and covering the pan with a lid or foil. After about 5 or 10 minutes, depending on how hot your fire is, lay the defrosted prawns on the top and leave it a bit longer. The mussels and clams are added about 5 minutes before the rice is cooked, so you need to keep an eye on it and test a bit from time to time.

The steam from the cooking will cause the mussels and clams to open up (keep the pan covered), and once they are all open, the paella is ready to serve. Ours was served simply with a mixed salad and lots of lemon wedges.

This is a great way to cook paella outdoors for family and friends. It's fun to watch and the smell is amazing. Happy 18th birthday Charlie. Love Dad. x


1 comment:

Anonymous said...


this is pure genius - well done again


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