It seems like a while ago already, but a couple of weeks back my daughters and I spent half term in Spain visiting my mother, Cheryl, who is lucky enough to live in the beautiful city Cordoba in Andalucia.
We left Bristol Airport amid severe winds and rain and arrived in Spain delighted to find ourselves in glorious sunshine. It felt like an Indian summer to us, so we found it quite amusing that the Spanish were all complaining about how chilly it was getting.
My mum works as an art teacher in the British School of Cordoba, where unfortunately they don’t get half-term breaks, although the fabulously long summer holiday more than makes up for this. When mum went off to school in the mornings, the girls and I would have a lazy breakfast in her apartment before idling around the city. A favourite spot to while away the hours was the courtyard outside the city’s famous Mezquita, a stunning mosque converted into a Catholic cathedral in the 13th century.
Despite the throngs of tourists, this is a truly magical and serene spot, where we’d enjoy our lunch sat on the stone steps, and then I’d simply sit back and watch the children play together in the shade of the orange trees.
Then we’d make sure we were back to the apartment in time for when my mum got back from school so we could spend the rest of our afternoons together. The girls always nag their Nana to take them to La Ciudad de los Niños – the City of Children. It’s their favourite place whenever we visit. It is one of the most incredible play parks I have ever been to, and the children could spend hours, if not days, here. If you ever visit Cordoba with children, you must pay it a visit.
Then we’d spend our evenings trying out different restaurants and tapas bars, and there are lots to choose from in Cordoba. Jess and Mia found it enormously exciting they were allowed to stay out late. Most places only starting service at 9pm, yet they’d still be full of families. It’s just something you don’t see when you go out at night here.
We enjoyed lots of wonderful tapas and seafood eating out in Cordoba, but to be honest my culinary highlight has to be the fantastic paella cooked at home by my mum. It’s a brilliant one-pot wonder and mum adds a little red chilli to her version, which I reckon is a marvellous addition. Mum’s like me – she says chilli improves pretty much any dish. I clearly inherited my love of chilli from her.
I got my mum to write down her recipe, and here it is:
Cheryl’s paella with chicken and prawns
pinch of saffron
1 tsp paella spice mix (or a combination of paprika, onion and garlic powder and cayenne)
2 litres hot chicken stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
6 skinless chicken thighs (with bones), quartered
500g paella rice
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 large tomato, diced
salt and pepper
10 king prawns
Dry fry the saffron in a hot pan and then place in a measuring jug with the paella spice mix, hot stock and a squeeze of lemon juice.
In a large, deep pan heat the olive oil and fry the onion, garlic and chilli until soft.
Add the chicken pieces and brown, before stirring in the rice. When the rice is well coated in the oil, add half the parsley and diced tomato. Stir well and then pour over the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, give it all another stir and cover with a lid.
Gently simmer for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the rice is almost cooked, lie the prawn on top, replace the lid and cook until the prawns turn pink.
Serve garnished with the rest of the chopped parsley and a wedge of lemon.
As my mum’s paella features chilli, I’m entering it into The Spice Trail, my new blog challenge, which this month has chilli as its theme.