Paella. Bringing some summer into your kitchen.

Winter really is harsh this year – it has now been snowing for at least 24 consecutive hours and it doesn’t seem to stop. I haven’t seen the sun in a while, and if, it’s so bitter cold outside, it feels like the cold is cutting into the skin. Hence the yearning for some summer vibes, easily delivered by a Paella. 

Similar to Risotto and Djuvec, Paella is a Mediterranean rice dish. They all have in common that you first fry the rice in some oil and only then add water to cook the rice. For me, Paella absolutely tastes like summer, reminding me of some very nice days in Bilbao. So whenever I come to Spain, I buy some smoked paprika powder, some saffron and of course, Paella rice:

Paella rice is a small grain rice, very similar to risotto or Abrioro rice. So don’t worry if you can’t find special Paella rice in your supermarket – I have also made very tasty Paellas with risotto rice, even milk pudding rice. Hell, in my opinion, better make a Paella with long grain rice than no Paella at all!

for 4

4 chicken thighs
8 large scampi, fresh or frozen
(200 g / 7 oz chorizo, cut into thick rounds)
(2 bell peppers, seeds removed and diced)
2 tomatoes or 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup risotto or paella rice
3-4 cups chicken or beef broth
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon (smoked) paprika powder
a pinch of saffron

Somehow, I always start with chopping onions and garlic. In this case, also the carrots. Set them aside, you will need them a little later.

This would be the right time for your Paella pan. But of course, almost nobody has a special Paella pan. Doesn’t matter, just use the biggest pan you have, in my case a cast iron Le Creuset.

Heat it up to medium, pour in some oil and gently fry the chicken legs until they are golden brown. No need to cook them through, we’ll deal with that later.

If you like, you can also fry the scampi one minute on each side, just so that they get a nice red color.

I simply forgot about the chorizo, it’s an integral part of this dish. Nevermind, just cut it into thick slices and also fry it for a bit. Set it all aside.

Speaking of nice red color: dissolve the saffron in a little bit of hot water. Smell the divine fragrance.

After getting the scampi out of the pan, start frying the carrots, onions and garlic. Not too much color, they should just get a bit soft. Then add the rice.

Stir it around in the hot pan until the kernels start to get translucent. You don’t want brown, you don’t want them fried, just a nicely coated by the oil.

Then add the broth and the dissolved saffron.

By the way, this was homemade vegetable broth. And frozen in a silicon muffin tin. Even if you are not a fan of silicon baking ware, think about getting a muffin sheet just for freezing things. Frozen stuff is very easy to extract from the silicon – just plop it out – and 2 muffin cups are one serving in most cases.

Add the rest of the spices and the peas, then arrange the chicken parts and the scampi on top. Let it simmer on the stove or in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until the rice is done – do not stir!
Serve piping hot with lemon and tomato wedges.

Tuna salad filled tomatoes. Hello from the Fifties.

A friend gave me a cookbook from the Fifties as a birthday present a couple of years ago. It is two inches thick and full of wonderful recipes, helpful hints on using leftovers – and even more delightful tips on shaping your food aerodynamically to make it more appetizing. There, I found great classics like meat loaf (in a dozen of variations), upside down pineapple and carrot cakes as well as tomatoes filled with different mayo-based salads, eg egg, chicken or tuna.

My mom used to make the tuna version as appetizer for guests: it’s quick and easy, filling but not too much and enjoyed by everyone, whether they like fish or not. Including me and my dad, who virtually despise everything that comes out of the ocean.


1 can tuna, drained
1 small onion, chopped very finely
1/4 cup peas
1/4 cup corn kernels, optional
1/4 – 1/2 cup mayonnaise, homemade
paprika powder
some drops of hot sauce
salt and pepper
4-6 tomatoes

Drain one can of tuna – doesn’t matter if you bought the one in oil or brine.

Take a small onion and dice it very finely – onions and tuna are a match made in heaven. And add the peas, I only had frozen (and blanched) ones. But you can take fresh or canned ones if you like.

OK, let’s spice it up a bit. Add some paprika powder for taste and color and maybe some drops of chili sauce, if you happen to like it hot.

Add some tablespoons of mayonnaise and start stirring. Just add enough to make it just come together. Not too much mayo or it will become slushy.

If you like you can cut open some tomatoes, scoop out the kernels with a spoon and fill in the tuna salad. Simple, ready in minutes and impresses you guests.