We often spend a feral weekend with a big group of friends in the middle of nowhere, in Vinaixa. There is not much to do there apart from relax and eat, which are luckily two of our favourite things! The highlight is usually the paella, lovingly prepared by Eva and Rafa, cooked on an open fire in the beautiful countryside.
Paella is widely thought to be from fairly humble origins in Valencia. Originally it was a farmers/workers food, cooked on an open fire out in the fields, as the main lunchtime meal. They used the rice that grew in Spain in abundance and whatever else was to hand. Tomatoes, onions and beans were added to the rice for extra texture, saffron often being used to give it it’s distinct colour and flavour. Chicken and sometimes rabbit were used in combination with seafood.
‘La Paella’ is actually the name of the shallow pan that you cook the rice in, not the dish itself. It has always been a social event, bringing together friends and family alike to feast together in the mountains (or on the beach) usually at the weekend. In the past everyone used to eat from the big paella pan, using their own wooden spoon.
There are many variations of paella recipe today (none containing chorizo, thanks Jamie Oliver), this one is an adaptation of Eva’s grandmother’s recipe. It served 10 hungry people, there were no leftovers sadly.
1kg Paella rice
Garlic, 1 whole head
Asparagus, 2 large bunches
400g tinned tomatoes, chopped
600g prawns, peeled
2 litres vegetable or fish stock
Oil, for frying
Cover the bottom of the paella pan in oil. When it’s hot, add the garlic head and fry it for a while, in it’s skin. Chop the asparagus spears into 4 or 5 pieces, keeping the tips separate from the rest. Add the asparagus, frying for a few of minutes, then remove the tips and set aside on a plate. To the asparagus and garlic add the tin of tomatoes and fry for a further few minutes. Add the rice and mix thoroughly until the rice has been fried for a few minutes. Spread the mixture evenly over the paella pan, place the garlic head in the centre, and add the stock, so the mixture is covered. Make sure you don’t stir it anymore. Cook until the rice starts to absorb the liquid. When the liquid has nearly all been absorbed add the asparagus tips and prawns to the top, until the prawns are cooked. Leave to rest for 10 minutes, until you serve.