February is fashion month, but it also seems to be a bit of a birthday bonanza in my circle of friends. We celebrated with ale trains, fancy pub canapés, breton buffets and the climax of it all was a surprise birthday paella for one of my friends held at ours. It was a lovely day with lots of friendly faces, a mindblowing surprise birthday video for all the February babies and even a marriage proposal! Congratulations Sarah and Lloyd!
My friend Anna headed up the crack catering team who went off to Billingsgate Market and picked up all manner of seafood to make the biggest paella I have seen. It was cooked in our back garden on a giant dish and enormo gas burner. Anna is a bit of a pro and even made a proper costing breakdown. This is in her own amusing words, her recipe for paella for 40.
Anna’s Paella for 40
Ingredients and costings here
Griddle pan the chicken thighs (in hindsight I wish I’d boned them first!) after marinading in olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. Chop eight onions and make a garlicky paste with a whole bulb, skin off obvs, then blitz it in what I call Robo and others call a blender, with some olive oil and s&p.
Lobster – cook for 12 mins then 6 mins per 500g, with onion, garlic, leeks, let cool, then get lobster picked with one of the lobster cracker things, just try to get as much meat out as poss, then put to one side. [eta: They bought ‘cripples’ older lobsters that have a claw missing as they’re cheaper than pristine ones]
Fry onions in olive oil & butter, add peppers and add the chorizo shortly after that so that the lovely porky fat escapes into the pan, yum! Add some smoked paprika & saffron – enough paprika to make the onions go red, enough saffron so you feel you might die of poverty. Then put the rice in, let it fry for a minute or two, then bosh in about half-three quarters of a bottle of sherry and let it bubble up & soak up into the rice then put the chicken in. You can put in a packet of frozen peas at this stage if you wish, or save it for later.
Keep topping up with chicken stock and put in a bit more saffron if you like. Slowly but surely add in squid, prawns, langoustines mussels on top and cover with foil so that they steam a little and open up. Once the rice is nice and chalky and the seafood is all cooked up, you’re onto a winner. no need to stir because the crispy bit at the bottom of the pan is bloody lovely.
Isabelle O'Carroll: I’m a writer, content designer and consultant with 11+ years’ experience across fashion, food and drink and the arts.