THE Fiesta Nacional of Spain falls next week, on the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar (12 October), commemorating the apparition of the BVM to St James in AD 40 as he converted the Iberian Peninsula to the faith. In recent years, a small van would make its way from Valencia to the Spanish Embassy each October for lucky guests to enjoy genuine Paella at the annual celebration in Belgrave Square.
This great dish can stretch several (my little series on mass catering). Usually cooked stovetop in a wide pan, I suggest instead the oven-pilaf method. Ingredients can be adapted for vegetarians or vegans, too.
950ml (32 fl. oz) basmati rice
2 large onions, sliced
6 cloves of garlic
3 peppers, deseeded
900g (2 lb) diced chicken breast
1l glass (250ml/8 fl. oz) white wine
675g (1½ lb) king prawns
450g (1 lb) seafood mix
450g (1 lb) whole chorizo, chopped
500ml (16 fl. oz) chicken stock
2 teaspoons saffron strands
Pour water over the rice in a bowl, stir gently, then drain, and repeat 2-3 times until the water stirs clear. Set aside to soak. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3 and lay out your largest roasting tin or baking dish.
Fry the onion in a large saucepan in a good dash of olive oil. Chop the garlic finely and the peppers into chunks and add in. After a couple of minutes, throw in the chicken breast.
Strain the rice, stir it into the onion mixture, and pour over the white wine. Give everything a low stir and cook gently for one minute.Tip everything into the baking tin or dishes. Stir in the prawns, seafood, and chorizo; mix well.
Add the saffron to the stock and pour evenly over the rice. Cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper, then tin foil, crimping over the edge to make a seal, and place in the oven for one hour. Serve with garlic mayonnaise.
This Chocolate mousse is a reliable go-to pudding; not least for its simple scaleability: 1 egg/1 oz sugar/1 oz chocolate/2.5 fl. oz cream. And it can easily go on a buffet table with cheese, fruit salad, maybe a cake, and everyone’s happy. This serves about 15 and can be frozen in advance.
240g (8 oz) good dark chocolate
240g (8 oz) caster sugar
600ml (1 pt) double cream
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt with a little water either quickly and carefully in the microwave, or in a double boiler. Set aside to cool a little.
Separate the eggs into two large bowls. Add the sugar to the yolks and beat with an electric (not handheld!) whisk until pale yellow, thick and fluffy. Slowly mix in the melted chocolate.
Whip the cream to the soft and heavy stage, but not dense, then fold into the chocolatey-yolks with a spatula.
Now wash the beaters, dry them carefully, and set about whisking the egg whites. Get them nice and stiff, to where you can hold the bowl upside down above your head without fear of slippage. Then take a large spoonful and slowly fold this into the chocolate base, before adding the rest to combine thoroughly. Pour the mousse into one large bowl or dish, or individual cups or pots, and chill for a couple of hours.
You can also adapt flavours by adding with the chocolate some orange flavouring, a cup of espresso, or even frozen and crushed After Eight mints.