The weather is supposed to be warming up for summer, and you’ll be thinking about going on your holidays, perhaps a weekends camping in Wales? This recipe has been waiting in the realms since the Easter break when I totted off to Nolfolk for a weekends camping with the extended family. There were about 20 of us all told, so this is certainly a recipe for a crowd (although I've adapted it to serve 10), and it’s not your typical Spanish paella either. I mean there are certainly Spanish influences and ingredients in the dish, but also ingredients you wouldn't expect, such as green beans and butter beans. My uncle (that’s right, the one with the pizza oven) tells me that this is an Italian version of paella, but I think we adapted it from various recipes, as you do when you’re camping and you've drunk too many glasses of red wine. What starts out to be a gallant effort to stick to the recipe inevitably ends up with many alterations and variations from the original recipe, but one thing that’s for sure is that this paella won’t fail to impress a hungry camping crowd.
I simply love the colours in this dish; it almost shouts festivities with the green beans and red peppers set amongst the pearly butter beans and rosemary. It’s certainly a different take on paella, which is what I think makes it so special. Using chicken thighs and drum sticks means it’s a very budget friendly meal, which is ideal when you've 20 people to cater for. Not the simplest of tasks I tell you. For me, camping is a great opportunity to get creative cooking something you wouldn't normally have time to attempt. Having plenty of willing helpers will make this an easier task, someone to chop vegetables, someone to boil kettles for stock, someone to top up your wine and of course your head chef.
Paella can be tricky, but if you get the basic process right and keep an eye on it you’ll be fine. The cooking process is via a combination of absorption and evaporation, which means that when you add the liquid (stock) to the rice you have to be patient in waiting for the rice to absorb all of the liquid, and make sure that you add more if needed. Once you've added the rice refrain from touching it, don’t be tempted to stir it, poke it or fiddle around with it otherwise you’ll end up with a starchy mess.
We started out making this paella in one 20 inch paella pan, but it very quickly became apparent that this was far too small for the amount we were making. Luckily Martin had another big pan, roughly the same size, so this recipe was enough to fill two 20 inch paella pans. I figured that a recipe for 20 people was far more than most people will want to feed, so decided to be more rational and write the recipe quantities to serve 10 people.
I thought I’d share this photograph with you, my uncle’s way of making sure the pan is straight on the hob, I mean is this really necessary? And, who brings a spirit level camping with them anyway? He's had this pan for 20 years, no word of a lie. So having prepped your ingredients, set up your cooking apparatus and, of course, made sure your pan is precisely in the position you want it your ready to get cracking.
16 chicken pieces (thighs and drum sticks)