Tuesday, July 12, 2011


The Gorgeous C gave me a copy of Ottolenghi's Plenty - a cornucopia of vegetarian fritters, salands, cymbal crashes of technicolour spices erupting luridly across the page and splashig happily onto this gastronomic troubaors palette.

Loved Ottolenghi the cookbook, and spent the beginning of the year pumping winning dish after winni9ng dish out of his pages and onto the plate. Some gripes about cooking times, especially for meats. But the spicing balance is excellent, original, and, occasionally, inspired. A dionysioan whilrwhind of turmeric, verdancy, and light.

I haven't cooked much from Plenty yet, but I did try a version of his paella dish, having had a half kilo of paella rice knocking about Hispanically in the back of the cupboard.

I can never find good paella, that exemplar dish that drives me to greater heights in attempts to suopersede or replicate it. Most of the paella I've had in Ireland tastes of rerheat. That damp and dank lack of care that lies like a vaguely bland blanket over badly cooked food.

You know the type. The keynotes are dampness, that slight edge or warmed up mildew, the notes of dulled down dumb tastes, the limp and limpid flavour notes. I've found nothing worth emulating. So, with paella, it's like cooking in the dark 9which, now I come to think of it, sounds like a lark. A flesh scorching electric hob based scarred for life kind of lark. But a lark).

Here's the recipe (adapted for my pantry). Pics to follow when I dump from the camera.

Olive oil. glugs.
1/2 Spanish Onion, diced finely.
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, sliced.
1/2 a fennel bulb, in strips (sadly lacking from our shelves)
2 crushed garlic cloves.
2 bay leaves.
1/4 tsp smoked paprika.
1/2 tsp ground turmeric.
1/4 tsp cayenne.
150g paella rice.
100ml medium sherry ( or, in the sherry impoverished environment of the casa K, sry white wine)
1 tsp saffron.
450ml boiling stock.
200g shelled broad beans (or, in our case, peas)
12 mini plum tomatoes, halved
5 smnall grilled artichokes (or, Lidl's finest for the economy chef)
15 halved olives (who can afford Kalamata in these hairshirt times)
parsley, roughly chopped.
lemon wedges to serve.

Gently fry the onion for five.
Add the fennel, if you have it, and the peppers, and fry on medium for 5.
Add the garlic, and fry for one.

Add the bay leaves, turmeric, paprika, and cayenne and stir well. Add the rice, and stir for 2 minutes, then in with the wine, and bring it to the boil.

Add the stock and two pinches of salt. Leave on a minimum heat and gentle simmer for 20 minutes, or until the liquid is mainly absorbed by the rice. Don't stir. You'll want to stir. I'll want to stir. Saint Augustine would want to stir. The Buddha would want to stir. Even though all stirring is suffering. But none of us should. Apparently. If we do, Thor gets to pull the wings off an angel or something.

If you are using the broad beans, pour boiling water over them, nd let them sit. Drain them, cool them, and pop them out of their skins. I used peas, which I just heated in hot water.

Remove the pan from the heat. Taste, and adjust seasoning. And, not really stirring much (I went for a gently patting type of affair, which was vaguely satisfying in the way of fuflfilling my stirring complusions - "I'm going to stir you good you dirty little minx...gah...." etc etc), add everything else except the parsley and lemon.

Cover it tightly with foil. Which will hurt. As frying pans get notoriously hot when used for the ourposes of frying. An tin foil doesn't provide quite the impermeable barrier innocent souls might trust in. They deflect surprisingly little radiation.

Leave for ten minuttes. Uncover, test for warmth, and serve, with a sprinkling of parsley. Exhort your eaters to lemon it enthusiastically - the lemon really stands out here.

I quite liked the dish, but, it did laclk some oomph. I would have chosen a better stock 9 I think a good veg or chicken stock would have given a great base note here) and the fennel was really missing - that sharp and aniseed freshness with the msllest or crunches would have done it the world of good. More salt - 2 pinches seems measly - and a touch of black pepper.

It was fresh, moreish, and wholesome. The peppers were well coooked, and the texture of the paella was interesting. The liquor was....ok. But the spicing was...well, I think I'll ramp up the measures.

All in all though, a keeper, andd set, with variations, to become a casa K theme.