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In the Mood for Holiday Food


Hooray – I’ve booked a summer holiday and am off to stay in a villa in Andalucia with my family in a few weeks. Can’t wait. I love Spain and their delicious cuisine.

We’ve chosen go self-catering in a villa, as in my opinion they’re best sort of holidays. My husband and I have two small children that require a whole pile of organizing, and if we’re stay in a hotel just getting them dressed to go to the restaurant each night is a challenge in itself, let alone trying to make it to dessert before they turn into little monsters.

With the option of sitting down and enjoying a chilled out meal in the comfort of our own villa, at a time that suits us seems to be the best solution. It’s also a brilliant way of getting to cook with some delicious local ingredients, which for me makes the whole experience an exciting challenge.

Of course, holidays are all about relaxing so when it comes to the actual cooking, simple to prepare dishes are essential, keeping time in the kitchen to a minimum. I have recently written some holiday food recipes for for their new collection of Gastro Villas. It’s well worth visiting the site, whether you’re looking to book a holiday or to check out some of my holiday food recipes, for Spain, France and Italy.

Oh – and of course I mustn’t forget to say – your weekly alcohol allowance is on hold when you’re on holiday, so make sure you enjoy the fantastic wine matches selected by my good friend the wine expert Susie Barrie from Winchester Wine School.

Below is one of my favourite Spanish dishes including wine matches from the Villarenters site, that I made for Susie and her fellow wine expert husband Peter Richards a couple of weekends ago which went down a treat. I will certainly be making it again when I am on holiday.


Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off this recipe, there is very little preparation to do. If you don’t have a paella pan, a large frying pan will be fine. However , it’s well worth picking a paella pan if you ever see one on your travels as they are really cheap, come in all sizes and are light weight enough to take home.

You can cook the paella on the hob or you can even place the pan on the barbecue outside.

serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 red pepper, sliced

300g paella rice

1 large glass of white wine (about 250ml)

a large pinch of saffron strands

1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika or standard sweet paprika

1 litre hot fish or chicken stock

500g shellfish such as mussels and/or clams, cleaned

8-12 raw large prawns

2 small-medium squid, cleaned and cut into rings

100g frozen peas, defrosted, or fresh green beans chopped

1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat the olive oil in a paella pan or a very large frying pan. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper, and sauté 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 enough stock to cover the rice (about two-thirds of the measured quantity). Stir well and bring to a simmer. Allow to gently cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add some more of the stock if it is being absorbed too quickly.

Stir in the mussels, clams, prawns, squid, peas and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the remaining stock, cover tightly with foil and leave to gently cook over a low heat for about 10–15 minutes, until the rice is tender and the seafood is cooked through (the mussel and clam shells should be open).

Sprinkle over the parsley and place the lemon wedges on top and serve.


To clean the mussels and clams, wash and scrub under cold running water, discarding any open shells that don’t close when tapped. It is also worth remembering that any shells that haven’t opened once the paella is cooked, should be discarded.

If you want to make a Paella Mixta, then add 100g of thickly sliced or chopped chorizo and 4 boned and roughly chopped chicken thighs to the sautéed onion. Cook until the chicken is golden. Add the rice and follow the recipe as above, cutting down on the quantity of seafood.

Susie Barrie’s wine selection…

Wine Option One:

Albariño is the ultimate Spanish seafood white. Deliciously crisp and herbal in style it will perfectly off-set the richness of the rice and bring out all of those enticing flavours of the sea.

Wine Option Two:

A grassy Verdejo from Rueda is the Spanish equivalent of a punchy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and it has just the right mix of crunchy, green flavours to complement this Spanish seafood classic.

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