Brown Rice sort-of Seafood Paella

ImageEven though I love baking sweet treats I do spend the most part of my week cooking and eating as healthily as I possibly can. I often try to use recipes that are not so healthy and modify them to make them even better. This can often be tricky as I’m still trying to convince my parents that dinner can still taste great without potato!! But for the most part, they are pretty willing to try whatever strange concoctions I come up with (their pretty great!). So a couple of weeks ago I decided to try a healthy spin on one of my family favourite dishes, Paella. Now Paella in and of itself is pretty good on the health-scale but I of course wanted to see if I could go one better and make it with brown rice instead of a short grain (dad wasn’t too keen and couldn’t understand why I yet again had to change something that I know works perfectly well!) So off to the shops we went, purchasing some beautiful prawns, mussels, squid tubes and choritzo sausage! And then the cooking began. In true Mia style, I’ve researched a whole lot of recipes, putting together all of the best bits and overall I’m really happy with the base recipe. It seems long and fiddly but in reality its just got a few (maybe more then a few) easy steps, that, when put together have a beautiful flavour true to Spanish food.

Normally, (when I use a short grain rice such as arborio) the dish takes about 35-40mins to make but knowing that I was using brown rice I allocated 45-50mins. Off I went, cooking away and the smells and flavours were fantastic (if I do say so myself). I added stock and stirred and tasted and still after almost 45mins the rice was no where near cooked. My family was getting hungry, moving closer and closer to the kitchen so I knew I had to hurry up but there was just no way to speed up the process! I knew that the seafood wouldn’t take very long at all to cook, so I didn’t want to add it until that rice was cooked through. So there I was faced with an ultimate dilemma, keep cooking the rice and have a hungry/angry family or just stick the seafood in and hope that it cooks at the same time as the seafood. I opted for the second option which in the end was not as bad as I had thought. The rice was just cooked through, with a slight firmness to it, while the seafood cooked through perfectly. I’d have to say that the flavours in this Paella were my best by far. Sadly though, (and probably because of the length of the grains of rice) the liquid did not absorb as should happen in a Paella and there was no crispy bottom. As opposed to a traditional Paella, the dish was more a Spanish rice with seafood and tomato sauce, maybe closer to a gumbo then a Paella. That being said, it was absolutely delicious and even my dad (whose not such a fan of brown rice) thought it was great!

So here’s my recipe, I’d recommend it for sure but just allow at least an hour for the rice to cook through and remember that it won’t be exactly like a traditional Paella. But that just goes to show that you can make Paella with brown rice! Alternatively, you can still use this recipe with arborio or spanish rice (I’ve even used sushi rice before and that works a treat!) and could make it with chicken instead of seafood. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

What you need:

500g Green prawns, peeled

1 Squid tube, cut into rings

1kg Mussels, de-bearded and cleaned

2 sticks of choritzo

1 cup brown jasmine rice

1 onion, diced

1 capsicum

1 tin chopped tomato

1L chicken stock

Smoked Paprika

pinch saffron threads

handful frozen peas

chopped parsley

What I did:

1. First off, chargrill your capsicum over an open flame on your stovetop. I literally leave it sitting on the flame, turning occasionally until the whole thing is black and charred. To remove the skin, pop it straight into a plastic bag and tie a knot in the top. The steam will help to remove the skin and then (while its still in the bag rub it all over to remove it. Take the capsicum out of the bag, rinse under cold water and remove the seeds inside.

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2. Using a food processor, blend your capsicum and diced tomato to make a saucy/liquid,

3. Heat a splash of extra virgin olive oil in your Paella pan and add your diced onion, cooking to translucent but not brown. Then add your diced choritzo sausages and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile heat up your stock in the microwave and add your saffron threads. leave them to “dissolve” and flavour. Add a good dash of paprika to your pan and cook out for 1-2mins, until it starts to give off a beautiful fragrant smell. Then add your brown rice, stirring to coat in the paprika. (I haven’t included a measurement here as its just to your taste).

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4. Finally, add the tomato/capsicum mixture from earlier and about half your stock, stirring it all to combine. Continue to stir your rice, adding more liquid as required for about 45mins (or until the rice is tender and just about cooked).

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5. At this stage, add half your seafood and stir it through, before adding the rest to decorate the top of the Paella. Once this is done, no more stirring, this will help to form a crisp bottom to the rice. Sprinkle with frozen peas and leave for 5 mins.

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6. Before serving, top the whole thing with lots of freshly chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

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Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Jamies Italian

ImageI have finally achieved one of my culinary dreams…dining at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant!! I have to admit that whilst Jamie Oliver himself wasn’t present, nor did he personally cook my meal I was so excited to finally dine at Jamie’s Italian in Sydney. Ever since I was a young kid watching The Naked Chef on TV I have dreamed of this moment (if you weren’t aware previously, I have a slight obsession with Mr Oliver and his cooking!) so needless to say I was like a little kid on Christmas when we arrived. 

I was having lunch with two friends from work and my sister and luckily you can make reservations for the lunch sittings for 2 or more people, whilst the dinner sitting requires a group of 8 to make a booking. That being said, you wouldn’t have a problem getting a table during lunchtime on a weekday because the table turnover is quite quick. Image

The four of us were seated downstairs, and I was very surprised at how long and narrow the restaurant was. All in all, it is actually quite a large space, which they have used very cleverly, including an upstairs dining area. The decor is very relaxed and rustic, with a collection of “mis-matched” chairs seated at wooden tables. The atmosphere is very welcoming and it’s really not that noisy (despite what other friends who have also dined there have said). The waitstaff are all very attentive and friendly, introducing themselves by first name when you are seated and continuously checking on you throughout. I have heard previously that the whole thing is a bit rushed, so as to turn over more tables and whilst this may be the case on a weekend or at dinner, my friends and I couldn’t have felt more different, sitting and chatting for almost four (yes four) hours! Another great thing about the staff here is that their knowledge of the menu is very thorough. They’ve all tried every dish on the menu and are more then confident to advise you on what’s great. 

ImageActually selecting what I wanted to eat though was a whole other kettle of fish! There were so many wonderful sounding, delicious dishes so it took me a little while and in the end my sister and I agreed to get two different dishes which we then shared (very clever if you ask me!) I also had to use a process of elimination, removing any dishes that I already have the recipe for at home! Personally, when I eat at an Italian restaurant I always order pasta! I really don’t know why but it’s the way I’ve always done it! For lunch I ordered the Prawn Linguini ($28 main) which was to die for. The Linguini was served in a rich tomato sauce with a slight hint of chilli and topped with big juicy Prawns and fresh rocket! What I loved most about this dish was the way the pasta tasted though. Perfectly al dente, with a nice bite to it and with that beautiful homemade taste and texture. The linguini was slightly thicker then your dried store bought pasta which i feel really added to the dish overall. My sister ordered the Wild Truffle Risotto ($25 main) which was again, just beautiful. Creamy, rich risotto that just melted in your mouth, topped with beautiful black truffles and strong parmesan cheese! MMMmmm yum!! Trust me, I had to resist the urge to lick my plate it was that good! I should also add that the serves were very big, and the two of us struggled to finish our meals together. Personally, I am not sure that I would be able to finish a whole main size of the Risotto, as the flavours were very strong and I tend to find truffle to be quite rich so it’s very filling.

That being said, we all had dessert (we had to!) and I wouldn’t regret it for a second. ImageThe four of us ordered the same thing; The epic Brownie ($10) (the name speaks for itself!). Oh wow! Even though I have the recipe for these exact brownies (best brownie you will ever taste) and have made them countless times before, this was a whole new level of yum! A rich, moist chocolate brownie topped with fudgy chocolate sauce, creamy amaretto ice cream and caramel popcorn! I could have eaten it all day long. Realistically, you could share this dish with two but hey, who would want to. You’d probably spend more time fighting over who got the next scoop so I’d recommend getting your own! 

Overall, a wonderful dining experience at my favourite chefs restaurant (I might be a bit biased but the rest of my party agree). I’m already planning my return for a couple of weeks time!! Highly recommended!