I Am Absolved

Saturday 2/4/2005

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Diary and Notes

No more ranting today - my phone still can't send photos but there are more important things to discuss - that of my immortal reputation - for in my shame I had a bit of a disaster (some time ago) whilst cooking a paella - it was before I started my NoshBlog, so I have never mentioned it before - but the story must be told.

I have a close friend in Manchester - Fran (who came to visit me in Germany and we had an excellent Lebanese meal see 20/11/2004) who was getting married. Being a little unconventional, Fran had decided to ignore tradition and ask me to be maid of honour at her wedding, a duty more normally reserved for women friends only. What could I do but accept and it was a fantastic day, quite one of the best weddings I've ever been to. In addition to being dressed in traditional Indian/Pakistani clothes, the evening meal (there was a proper sit down silver service do earlier as well) was an Indian buffet prepared by an excellent restaurant in Manchester the Nehmat Khadar in Chorlton - curry and weddings, what more could I ask for? (photo of me dressed in Pakistani Kurda and garland above)

"But what of the disaster?" you ask, "We don't want to hear about good things, we want stories of shame and strife."

Ah, the paella. I remember it well.

It was Fran's hen night (day one, it was a two day affair with the second day being a traditional trip to Blackpool for fairground rides and fish & chips, then an evening's clubbing in Manchester) - and I had been asked to cook a meal for about thirty giggling women. What to cook was something that had troubled me for some time and I eventually decided on a Spanish banquet, involving about fifteen different dishes and topped off with a massive paella as the centrepiece. Fran even bought me a giant non stick paella pan, about 70cm in diameter, as a present.

The day of the party came and I had spent an absolute fortune on food. There was every tasty Spanish treat that could ever be served - several kinds of fish and seafood dishes, salads and meats and generally they were all pretty good. I cooked while they played party games (all very rude and usually involving vibrators) and brought out each dish as it was ready, a bit like a tapas bar might. When it came to the great centrepiece, this wondrous paella with giant clams, prawns the size of the kraken, fresh mussels and squid and all manner of other tasty treats, what happened? The rice was overcooked and stodgy.

Yep, I'm cooking dinner for 30 women and my chances of coming away with a phone list that would make David Bekham jealous and I go and overcook the rice.

It was a good paella - in fact, apart from the rice it was superb - but there was still that one nagging piece of shame hanging over me for ever more.

I suppose it wasn't completely unexpected. I'd never cooked such a giant paella before and I was also cooking all the other dishes and making cocktails for the girls as well, but the shame has lingered on in my mind ever since.

But now I am absolved.

Today I cooked a paella in the same pan and it was excellent. The rice was just right, there was a nice selection of fishy and meaty tastes and the people who joined me for dinner never said a bad word all evening. I am absolved, free of the shame and can now hold my head high again and say "I can make a good paella."

Cake Blog

A very tasty lemon tart from Sainsbury's. Just enough for 6 people but 8 had turned up and we had to skimp - a bit like the paella.


  • Paella
  • Bread


    500g Paella Rice
    2 Tbsp Milk
    200g Frozen Prawns
    16 Tiger Prawns
    100g Squid
    200g Mussels
    8 Large Chicken Drumsticks
    200g Chorizo
    2 Spanish Onions
    1 Green Chilli
    2 Cloves Garlic
    1 Red Onion
    1 Red Pepper
    1 Green Pepper
    4 Tomatoes
    100g Frozen Peas
    100g Green Beans (Blanched)
    Fresh Parsley
    Bunch Spring Onions
    100g Black Olives
    Black Pepper
    1 Lemon
    1 Lime


  • The night before you make your paella, bash the saffron in a mortar and pestle then stir into a little milk and leave in the fridge overnight, this causes it to puff up and colours the milk for use later.
  • Skin the chicken drumsticks. Brown them in a little olive then add the onion, minced garlic and chopped chilli (only a little chilli, it's not supposed to be hot). Cook slowly for 30 mins until the chicken is nearly done then add the chorizo (chopped into chunks) fry for 5 more minutes then stir in the rice and the saffron milk. Fry the rice for a minute or two then add some water to cover the rice, stir once and let the rice absorb the water. Keep adding a little water until the rice is almost cooked (don't stir as this causes the rice to release starch making it creamy like a risotto should be, not fluffy liike a paella should be) and then add the chopped red onion, peppers, peas, beans and all the seafood. Cook for a further five minutes (the rice should be just about done then) and stir in the chopped tomatoes. Leave for a minute to let the tomatoes warm through then garnish with olives, chopped spring onions, parsley and lemon & lime wedges.


    *All quantities are very approximate and for a single person


    Paella photograph © Mark Pavey 2005