Oh my goodness farming can be a tough gig. Too much rain or not enough (the latter at the moment for us), busted tractor tyres (ouch), busted cash flow, fences to put up, fences to pull down, animals to feed, dollar to watch, paddocks to improve, meat to sell and so it goes, on and on. Honestly the past few weeks have challenged us on most fronts.
The point of all this is not to whinge, but to say that despite what this blog and my Instagram feed may sometimes imply, it’s not always brioche and picnics here at Mandagery Creek HQ. Sometimes, but not always. And after weeks like this, it takes extra effort to keep our eyes on the prize - which is, collectively, our two healthy kids, each other, our families, the beautiful part of the world we live in and the community we share it with. To remember that while we may not have the funds to renovate or take big holidays etc etc, we can make a nice cake and eat it in the garden for afternoon tea, swap some venison for a bottle or two of wine made by our neighbours, and go on the odd camping trip with friends and cook them an al fresco paella. You know, just enjoy the little things. Which I suppose, aren't really all that little.
By the way, if this post were to have a theme song, it'd be Gold In Them Hills by Ron Sexsmith.
Anyhoo... my birthday falls just after Christmas so this year I combined the two events in an excuse to buy myself a big paella pan and a tripod with a gas burner (from the lovely ladies at The Essential Ingredient here in Orange). We love picnics and entertaining outside but in summer, with fire bans in place, it’s been hard to cook anything al fresco. Until now...
So last weekend, after a fairly ordinary week, we took my new paella kit on its first proper outing. And it was awesome. While I know that I have a long way to go before my paella’s are perfect or authentic at all, this one really was very tasty and easy to make. Paella is a fantastic way to feed lots of people outside, (unlike risottos, they don’t need lots of stirring so you can just get it going then let it cook) and if camping, the pan comes into its own the next morning as a vehicle for mass bacon and egg frying.
Simple chicken and chorizo paella
I know I'm not inventing the wheel here. But I guess I just wanted to start our paella journey with a classic combination and take it from there. If you are keen on camping - please consider investing in one of the tripod/pan combos pictured above. All told it cost us a little over $200 but I can guarantee that we'll be cooking with this baby for years to come and feeding lots of people in the process so I consider it a good investment. The recipe below feeds 10. My apologies for not including a photo of the finished dish but by the time we were ready to eat it was pretty dark and not ideal for photography!
1/2 cup olive oil
4 chorizo sausages, sliced into 1cm thick discs
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled, squashed with the flat side of a knife
3 tbsp each finely chopped rosemary and sage
1.5kg chicken thigh fillets, cut into 3cm cubes
1kg tomatoes, grated (discard skins)
3 tbsp smoked paprika
A good pinch (or more if funds allow) of saffron threads
2 litres chicken stock
1kg calasparra rice
2 cups frozen peas
Place your paella pan over high heat and add the olive oil. Cook the chorizo, garlic, herbs and chicken for about five minutes, until browned on the edges but only half cooked. Push everything to the side so you have a circular space in the middle of your pan. Tip in the grated tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until they begin to dry up, don't let them burn.
Combine all ingredients and stir well. Now add the paprika and saffron and stir again. Pour in the stock then sprinkle over the rice. Gently stir so everything is evenly distributed across the pan then, and here's the best part, reduce the heat to medium/low and just leave it to cook for about 10 minutes. Top up the liquid if necessary and after that time check the rice for done-ness. It should be tender with just the slightest crunch. At this point, add the frozen peas, a little more liquid if necessary (you don't want it to be dry at all) and cook for a few more minutes.
Turn off the heat then serve.
Camping bircher muesliI'm not an experienced camper. But I do love sleeping in the trailer, pictured above, that we borrowed last weekend and hope to one day call our own. We woke to a golden dawn then had a breakfast of bircher muesli, bacon and eggs before heading down to the dam for another day hanging out in and around the water.
Bircher is a brilliant way to start the day; easy, really fulling and I think, absolutely delicious, it's a great camping option as it's happy to sit in the Esky until needed and spooned into bowls.
1 cup rolled oats
1 green apple, grated
1/2 cup apple juice
3/4 cup natural yogurt
A pinch of ground cinnamon
Combine all of the above ingredients and stir gently. Cover and place in the fridge overnight. The next morning, serve with crushed toasted hazlenuts, blueberries and maple syrup (that's our favourite). Or any other fruit/nut combination you prefer! Raspberries and toasted almonds are delicious too as is a combination of poached fruit and mixed seeds.