picnic in the park

i just realized something: there hasn't been a really nice warm sunny day in england since i started this blog. that is tragic. and if there have been nice warm sunny days in england since then, i've been away and missed out. no longer!!

yesterday and today are absolutely gorgeous and remind me of why i loved living in southern california so much. all that sunshine and flip flops and you're bound to be in a good mood. plus, english people rarely get to enjoy this type of weather, so they really take advantage of it. i love that - a hot day is appreciated so much more when it's a rarity. even if there aren't any beaches in london (not real ones, anyway) there are plenty of parks and they're usually packed full when it's this pleasant outside.

i ate two meals in my nearest park yesterday - along with about 300 other people (mostly young children). but the best was being able to cook dinner at home, a great recipe from yotam ottolenghi's new book, plenty, and pack it up in a tupperware container with a bottle of wine, a couple of glasses and forks, and a blanket, and dine al fresco with phil.

now, i'll be honest, i don't actually have the book - phil's mum was kind enough to email a recipe from the book that she and phil's dad had tried recently and loved, a multi-vegetable paella. ottolenghi published the recipe back in 2008 in the guardian, but i'll post it here as well the way we made it last night. it's a really lovely summer dinner, all vegetables - so full in fact that you'll barely miss the meat. eat it outside for added enjoyment.

multi-vegetable paella

serves 3-4 (or two with leftovers) - a recipe from yotam ottolenghi's plenty

the particulars:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut into strips
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 3/4 cup calasparra rice (we used short-grain rice as we didn't have the real paella stuff)
  • 1/2 cup good-quality medium sherry
  • 1 tsp saffron strands
  • 2 cups boiling vegetable stock
  • Sea salt
  • 12 mini plum tomatoes, halved
  • 5 small grilled jarred artichokes, quartered
  • 1 cup broad beans (we used frozen)
  • 12 pitted black olives, halved
  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
  • 4 lemon wedges, to serve
  1. heat the oil in a paella pan (we used a wok), then gently fry the onion for 5 minutes. add the peppers, fennel, and garlic, and fry on a medium heat for another 5-6 minutes, until soft and golden.
  2. add the bay leaves, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne, stir, then add the rice and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes before adding the sherry and saffron. boil down for a minute, then add the stock and 1/3 tsp of sea salt.
  3. turn the heat as low as possible and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, until most of the liquid (but not all) has been absorbed by the rice. do not cover the pan or stir the rice during this time.
  4. remove the paella pan (wok) from the heat. taste, add more salt if needed, but without stirring the rice too much. scatter the tomatoes, artichokes, and broad beans over the rice. cover the pan tightly with foil and leave for 10 minutes.
  5. take off the foil, scatter the olives and parsley over the top of the paella and serve with the lemon wedges.