If you’ve been watching What’s Cooking on Channel 4, you may have seen Jo Pratt cooking up a storm during the first week. I first met Jo a few years’ ago, when she was planning her first (gorgeous-looking and hugely successful) book In the Mood for Food. She wrote another after that, went off and had two beautiful babies and has returned to the world of TV, books and other foodie things with her new book Madhouse Cookbook, which I’ve been working on with her.
The premise of the book is really simple. It’s billed as a life-transforming collection of recipes for busy parents – for surviving the stressful week, coping with hectic weekends and enabling you to cling onto your social life. All of the dishes have been devised to make life easy – with shortened preparation and cooking times, brilliant plan-ahead tips and ‘Lifesaver’ and ‘Leftover’ mini-recipes to make those precious moments you spend cooking go further.
I made her Baked Seafood Paella yesterday. As Jo says, this is a “real-life recipe”. You don’t need a special paella pan and, instead of having to stir and continually do things, you simply prep it then put it in the oven and let it cook itself. It really is spectacularly easy – and it’s a great recipe if you’re having friends round for dinner, as well as a lovely one for the whole family.
* gluten-free, dairy-free, soya-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
- 300g/10½oz/1⅓ cups paella rice
- 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup dry white wine
- a large pinch of saffron strands
- 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika or standard sweet paprika
- 750ml/26fl oz/3 cups hot gluten-free and dairy-free fish or chicken stock
- 500g/1lb 2oz shellfish, such as mussels and/or clams
- 2 medium squid tubes, cut into rings
- 150g/5½oz/scant 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted, or fresh green beans, chopped
- 8–12 raw, whole king prawns
- ½ small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Scrub the mussels thoroughly with a stiff brush under cold running water to remove all traces of grit, then remove any barnacles or other debris attached to the shells and pull off and discard any beards. Rinse again and discard any mussels that stay open.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.
- Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole over a medium heat, add the onion, garlic and red pepper and fry for about 5 minutes until the onion has softened. Stir in the rice for a minute or so until it is coated in the oil, then add the wine, saffron, paprika and stock. Stir well and bring to the boil, then bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- Stir in the mussels and/or clams, squid and peas and season lightly with salt and pepper. Nestle the prawns into the surface. Return to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes until the rice is tender and the seafood is cooked through. Make sure all the prawns are pink and discard any mussel or clam shells that haven’t opened.
- Sprinkle over the parsley and serve with lemon wedges. Provide empty bowls for the shells, and a few finger bowls of warm water and plenty of napkins for messy fingers.
- Paella Mixta:
- If your friends aren’t massively into seafood, then make your paella with chicken and chorizo. Add 150g/5½oz thickly sliced or chopped chorizo and 4 roughly chopped chicken thighs to the fried onion and cook until the chicken is golden. Add the rice and follow the recipe as above, but just using prawns and not the mussels or squid.