Per’s Easy-peasy Paella

Doesn't that look like the real McCoy?
Doesn’t that look like the real McCoy?

This dish has always scared me a bit – the mussel shells and saffron rice looked so intimidating, but the other night Per found some frozen seafood we had leftover from a party, and rustled up a Paella which, I have to say, was better than the one we ate in Spain (and my friend Alison agreed, so it must be true). Actually, using frozen prawns worked just as well, and aside from the seafood, the stuff you need is really pretty basic. And even though you can pull this cheat version off in 20 minutes flat, it’s fancy enough to serve to guests and look like you’re pretty accomplished. And we like dishes like that. If you have a big wok, make it and serve it in that. Otherwise, a large frying pan or any shallow-ish pot will do.

You’ll need:

White rice
Frozen prawns and mussels
Two chicken breasts
A chorizo sausage (optional)
An onion
Two cloves of garlic
A tablespoon of dried paprika
A carrot
Saffron or turmeric
A red or green pepper or frozen peas or both
Chicken stock

Method:

Chop your onion, garlic, red or green pepper and carrot and fry it up in a bit of oil. If you have saffron, add a pinch, otherwise a teaspoon of turmeric works just as well. Sprinkle in your paprika. Add your chicken breasts chopped into bit-sized pieces and if you want to include Chorizo, chop it up and put that in now. Fry the meat up a bit so everything browns a little. Add a cup of rice, fry it up and bit, and then whack in two cups of chicken stock. Put the lid on, turn the heat down and leave it till nearly all the water’s been absorbed. Add your frozen seafood and peas, a sprinkle of salt and black pepper and put the lid back on for ten minutes or so, till the rest of the water disappears. And that’s it! Serve with lemon wedges, crusty bread and a bottle of bubbly. It’s a party in a pot.

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No, I can’t bring a fucking salad. Or, when B.Y.O. goes O.T.T.

A while ago I was invited to a 40th birthday celebration by a kind-of friend. She had rented a hall, and the invitation read ‘bring your own meat ‘n booze’ and then, beneath the picture of a disco ball and a couple dancing, a request in small print that everyone bring along ‘a salad of (our) choice.’ A salad of our choice? That we have to make? Are you kidding me? I thought BYO meat was a bit cheeky, but a side dish? Okay, that’s just rude. How about I bring my own chair to sit in, cutlery and the fridge? Or, how about I just don’t come.

Thing is, past a certain age that starts with an ‘f’, a major incentive to finding a sitter, paying said sitter and standing around in heels all night is the fact that I don’t have to drive to the supermarket and drag two bored children around the meat aisle. I don’t have to slice cucumber, toast seeds or make vinaigrette because you, the host, have presumably done this for me. It’s what is called ‘hosting.’ And that’s what is in it for me.

Yes, I get to drink wine and make conversation, but that I can do in the comfort of my own kitchen and what’s more I can wear slippers. But make me bring everything I’m going to eat and drink, and I’m not going to come to your party. Now, I understand not everybody can afford to feed and water 50 guests so, by all means, let us bring wine, and lots of it. I’ll even throw in a bottle of Jose Cuervo to get the party started. But you have known for, well, forty years that this occasion was imminent, so maybe you should have put some of that Guess jeans money aside so that we, your friends, didn’t have to cater for your party.

I am all for entertaining having become more casual. If we still – god forbid – had to come up with three courses plus canapés we would never, ever see our friends. I say, bring on the braais, the curries, the takeaway pizzas – anything that does away with undue hassle and stress. But if you decide you want to host something, get into the goddamn kitchen.