Posted by: Team McSlade | May 1, 2010

Paella, let the cook off begin…

As we have written about our penchant for having siestas, we have needed to even the ledger slightly by adding a fiesta – and what a party it was!

Having seen a few posters around the uni campus with a prawn in a chef’s hat and a few lines pointing out Friday (April 30) and Paellas; I asked a few others what it was about. Well…  it’s about cooking paellas.
Really? Where is it, as they don’t even mention where it is held.
In the back carpark.
What, a carpark? Seriously, what are these Spaniards on? (The good ticket as it turned out).

Having been set the challenge by a few mates (Celena, Timmy and ‘big’ Max) that I needed to be able to proficiently cook paella on a wood fire by the time we returned to Adelaide, I took this opportunity to test the waters and see how the pro’s did it.
I found out that getting one ticket (for 3€uros) got a chair, but ten tickets got you ten chairs, a table, sand, firewood and a kilo of rice. An email was cracked out to Matt and Kate in Barcelona seeing if they wanted come along, yes was the reply, and then a few Erasmus (International students) mates got the call up. Bang, we were set to see how cooking in a carpark would go.

We got there at noon, chairs and tables were acquired and after a disaster in Spanish, the rice was also in hand. ¿Donde es la leña? (Where is the firewood?) – oh, that’s laid out in the carpark with the sand, choose your own slot.
So with two little kids, two big kids and twenty odd international students in tow, we pitched camp and watched the Spaniards roll in. A few tins and a couple of bottles of sangria were cracked, the sun was out, band warming up, mechanical bull tethered and good times ahead.

Sand was poured onto the asphalt (this stops the fires from leaving holes in the carpark and having petrol/diesel/oil adding to the mix). Matt and I rolled out for extra beverages, water and a few bags of ice, also a bucket to keep it in. On the way back we thought that a few bricks might help keep the paella dish steady over the flames.
A few besser bricks/cinder-blocks were liberated from the front of a block of flats, and it was a race back to the carpark. So with a stand set up, sand poured and some kindling from a nearby garden bed; the scene was set. Sparks flying, orange boughs a blaze and things were looking good for at least getting the pan hot.

I watched a group of Spaniards next to us spark up a bonfire and place a pan about two feet in diameter on for a cook off of behemoth proportions (also a bucket of oil and several chickens were offered up to the paella gods). Having prepared the ingredients at home (and having made a few on the gas at home), I was ready for this initial baptism of fire.

Now, the true Paella Valenciana is paella that is not to be messed with, but with an ‘Australian’ t-shirt and Cooper’s Pale Ale hat on, I was a beacon of ‘me-no-Spaniard’ and with that onions and garlic were added to the pan. Two kilos of chicken, paprika, salt, pepper and green beans were also cooked off. As my pan was/is muy pequena (very small) some chicken was jettisoned to allow for the tomato, two litres of water and a kilo of rice to be added.
A bit of phaffing about with the fire, a reduction in liquid and the jettisoned chicken re-added, the next twenty minutes were a nervous wait for the rice to cook. Properly reduced, with a slight crust on the bottom and a bit of resting time for the dish and we were ready to roll.
Drumroll, please.
Served up and ‘inhaled’ with great vigour, like Jesus with the loaves and fishes, this kept on feeding people, last count was 16 servings and still leftovers. Thus 32 thumbs up (I say it was the onions) and the rest of the day to kick back and enjoy the company, atmosphere, bands and mechanical bull.

There was a competition for best paella, and I chose not to enter for fear of not being good enough, yet a Danish mate, Jesper, pumped up my tyres by saying that he spoke to a group of about 65 Spaniards who said to him:
“We don’t even know how to make a paella, but there’s some Australian student over there who knows how to do it.”

Thanks to everyone who came along and made the day great; thanks to the security guard who asked if I was a student (seems 4 kids and grey hair give you away as an ‘old dude’) and thank you to the Generalitat Valenciana for giving the world paella.

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  1. Mmmmmmmm paella…

  2. Ha ha, that is just awesome…we definitely need to create an Aussie version of that…the backyard barbie off?? Pav in the park?? There’s got to be something!!

  3. Your paella mission is now complete. I’ve got the besser bricks ready in the back yard – Yummo !

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