The few cookbooks left probably say much about me as a cook. Many were packed into towers of boxes yesterday, hidden from view for a week, to be lovingly categorized and alphabetized when released into their, and our, new home next weekend. On the soon-to-be-ex-kitchen counter sits a well-worn copy of The Cranks Bible; A Cook's Guide to Grains; two books by the eccentric Colin Spencer, who makes vegetable dishes I'd give both limbs for; Mark Bittman; Paula Wolfert's Moroccan Cuisine (because this post, has made me want to find the agar-agar flakes, quickly, and I think the almond milk came from her); that tofu book with the naff name and, naturally, Mr Nigel Slater. Whom I love.
I didn't wish for much. A room for each child (actually, they're men now...); an office for Peter and a place where he can paint; a garden. Light, for me - photography is impossible without flooding natural light - and quiet, for us all. Oh, and a lemon tree.
All boxes are ticked.
Handy, then, that as I sit in a house whose contents are rapidly being absorbed into boxes, Kathryn's Pantry Challenge has come along. Just in time. Frankly, the less we take, the better. It's gonna be a pantry-cleaning week. Brown rice, tinned tomatoes and smoked paprika. You will need a salad here, I think. Just a couple of handfuls of greenery and a few bitter leaves of witloof, dressed with mustard, honey, cider vinegar and oil. Or at least a whole lotta chopped parsley, 'cos parsley is worth the effort.
Tomato and brown rice paella for 2
No true Spaniard would entertain the idea of brown rice in his paella. But if Mark Bittman can suggest that brown rice, treated correctly, replaces white with excellent results, then I can too. Par-boiling is key. He claims that, and I quote, 'This is one of the most important "discoveries" that I made while researching this book'. He's on to something.
Soy sauce or tamari
1 cup of short or medium grain brown rice
1 x 400g (15oz) tin of whole tomatoes
(3 cloves of garlic - optional)
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/2 cup of frozen peas
Preheat the oven to 220o C (450o F).
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add about a tablespoon of soy sauce and tip in the rice. Stir and adjust the heat to keep a steady, simmering pace for 14-15 minutes. Drain the rice and set aside.
Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes over a bowl to collect the juice.
Peel and chop the onion (and garlic). Heat 2 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy-based frying pan that can also fit (and not melt) in your oven. Fry the onion (and garlic) until soft and golden. Add the paprika, stir and add the strained tomato juice. Let it bubble away for a few minutes, then add the par-boiled rice and stir for a few minutes longer.
Boil a kettle. Measure 2 cups of water and mix in a tablespoon or more, to taste, of soy sauce. Add the liquid to the rice, then the peas and stir until just combined. Roughly chop the tomatoes and scatter them on top. Drizzle with a little oil, then place the whole pan in the oven. Cook, undisturbed, for 20 minutes.
Turn off the oven, leaving the pan in there to 'rest' for another 10 minutes.
Serve with salad.