“Poor Man’s Paella” from “The Little Book of Lunches”

I need to admit up front that I didn’t actually eat this for lunch. I made it for dinner. But I would be surprised if you could find anyone who would be willing to get up 35 minutes early before lunch so they could make this and take it with them. Not me, that’s for sure.

It was decidedly delicious. We all loved it and I definitely will be making it again for dinner, not least because it’s a one-pot dinner, which makes cleanup spectacularly easy.

The inspiration for the dish, as explained in the introduction, was Ottolenghi’s paella. If I had to guess, it probably was this one, as published in the Guardian and the original was made by Kirstin in this very blog seven years ago, which you can read here.

Caroline Craig and Sophie Missing wanted to make Ottolenghi’s paella, but realised they didn’t have many of the ingredients so they boiled it down to the essence of the dish. Or, as Nicholas rightly pointed out, “Spicy rice with tomatoes.”

I added all of the optional extras, which I’m sure made it far more interesting and tasty: chorizo, peppers, frozen peas and parsley. Tim suggested the next time I make it that I also throw in some prawns at the end, which is similar to what Jamie Oliver did in Save Jame! (technically, “Save with Jamie”), which Kirstin also tested out and loved, which you can read here.

Clearly, paella for dinner is a winner. But getting up early to make paella for lunch? Very ambitious and equally unlikely for most people.

“Poor Man’s Paella” from “The Little Book of Lunches”

“Bo Bun Salad” from “It’s All Easy”

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Tom: This is yum! This is like being at Slanted Door.

Kirstin: Ah. So we had Zuni and now Slanted Door.

Tom: All my favourite restaurants in San Francisco.

Kirstin: You know I’ve never been to Slanted Door, but you always tell me about it. One day!

Tom: Well I like going there on a Thursday lunch time and having a cheeky lunch.

Kirstin: But without me!

Tom: Well I wish you were there! And this is yum!

Kirstin: It has all the Vietnamese feels, doesn’t it?

Tom: It’s the fried shallots…

Kirstin: Yes, I’m going to smell of fried shallots all day now. Oooops. Also I couldn’t find palm sugar, sorry Gwyneth. And I still don’t have a spiralizer, so I bought the courgette ready spiralized. And the Armenian cucumber. I have no idea what that was all about. So a bit of a faff, but worth every second.

Tom: This is epic! My favourite lunch for a very long time.

Kirstin: I think we need to go to Vietnam some time. It’s so delicious! Right, let’s going back to listening to The Police.

“Bo Bun Salad” from “It’s All Easy”

“Papaya, Halloumi and Watercress Salad” from “The Art of Eating Well”

 

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Anna: This salad is amazing. I think it is my dream salad. I cannot recommend it enough. I mean, anything with halloumi (or feta, or any other salty cheese) gets my attention. And I have to admit that I scaled up the amount of halloumi just a little bit. But I had been for a run this morning…. Combining it with papaya though, that was a revelation. Sweet and salty. Peppery watercress. Red onions, pine nuts…. It was so simple and quick to make but tasted really indulgent and totally delicious. I’m having it for lunch again tomorrow. And I think maybe the next day too!

“Papaya, Halloumi and Watercress Salad” from “The Art of Eating Well”

“Griddled Squid, Herb Salad and Black Olive Dressing” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

Anna: This is really quite delicious! I have failed so spectacularly with squid recently but this is a big success in my book. Was it filling enough for you?

Peter: Yes it was. And the chilli was quite warm.

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Anna: It reminds me of the River Café griddled squid recipe I used to do in the last decade as a starter. You know, the one with rocket and the chilli dressing. But this is a slightly beefed up version, with the olives and herbs. I think it’s suggested as a starter here, but I added the rocket to make it more of a salad.

Peter: I would definitely have it again.

Anna: Oh good. So would I. Healthy, virtuous and punchy. Perfect.

“Griddled Squid, Herb Salad and Black Olive Dressing” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

“Asparagus and Poached Egg Salad” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

Anna: I feel very virtuous eating this.

Peter: It is very summery for sure.

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Anna: I thought it would be a wonderful way to celebrate the asparagus that’s in season right now. Louis helped me chose the asparagus at the greengrocer.

Peter: We can do the pee experiment in the morning….

Anna: Really I should have made this in Aldeburgh last week with all that amazing local asparagus kicking around but we weren’t so virtuous with our fish and chips. I made an extra poached egg each as I didn’t think it would be substantial enough for dinner otherwise. I think we should have asparagus like this every year!

“Asparagus and Poached Egg Salad” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

“Oeuf en Cocotte a l’Estragon” from “The Skinny French Kitchen”

I made this for my lunch today because I was pretty sure that if I served it up for dinner, there would be a minor revolt on my hands. Or, as a friend recently posted on Facebook with a picture of a big beautiful salad: “Better bring my wine to the table because I know everyone else will be whining too.”

This is essentially baked eggs with cream and tarragon and almonds scattered on top. Yum.

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The skinny tip is to use a smaller ramekin in which to cook the egg and the cream. I wasn’t sure, however, what qualified as “smaller”, so I used my usual ramekin. I didn’t think my small one would be able to hold the egg and the cream without it spilling over.

It was, in a word, divine. It couldn’t have been more simple: a medium-sized egg swimming in a small amount of chicken stock and cream with bits of tarragon thrown in for good measure.

Will I make it again? You bet. Would I make it for the family? Probably not. I don’t want to have to bring my wine to the table for the whining.

“Oeuf en Cocotte a l’Estragon” from “The Skinny French Kitchen”

“Chorizo, Spinach and Ricotta Frittata” from “Fast, Fresh, Simple”

Sorry, I don’t have any dialogue for you today as I made this for my lunch and I tend to eat alone. Not for any Greta Garbo sort of way, but just because that’s where I found myself that day. In fact, she never said, “I want to be alone” and instead said, “I want to be left alone.” Garbo later said, “There is all the difference.” Indeed.

But I digress. I can tell you that I enjoyed this dish so much that I have now eaten it for lunch twice. It is a whole lot of good eating in one little skillet. For the record, I never added the sage leaves it called for– I had them, I just kept fogetting to add them– but I don’t think that oversight left the dish wanting. Also, I didn’t have any single cream to hand, so I used milk, which also worked. I imagine the cream would make it an even richer dish, but it seems pretty good as it is, so I don’t know if its use is entirely necessary.

I didn’t think it would work to cook the spinach with the chorizo, as I usually cook down spinach with water. It did work, though, and it worked a treat. I will remember this trick when I make other dishes with spinach in the future.

Again, because I was eating alone, I cut the quantities down to make it for one person. It could very easily be scaled up, in which case you’d need to share the whole skillet of goodness, which might be difficult for some people.

I would definitely make this again, especially for a weekend breakfast or brunch, though lunch on my own was equally nice. I’m pleased to say that all the timings worked for this recipe.

“Chorizo, Spinach and Ricotta Frittata” from “Fast, Fresh, Simple”