'Love fern' paella
Brace yourself. You’re about to fall in love with a smokin’ hot redhead named Poppy. Poppy is one of the florists who work next door to my house. This means it’s her post flower-market peony/cosmos/daliah- induced squeals that wake me at the crack of dawn more mornings than not. Luckily Poppy is so awesome I could never hold her high pitched (and strangely husky) posy love against her.

This ray of sunshine originally hails from Perth but has called Melbourne home for the past eleven years. She lives in this single storey terrace in Collingwood with her beau Scotty and their fur babies; Hono the cat and Lulu the dog. Yep, Honolulu.

Poppy loves cooking and is a natural- cooking with her eyes and her tummy rather than sticking to recipes. While I was at her house she basically planned the entire week’s menu from leftover ingredients. From garlic mussels to salmon steaks poached in coconut milk, coriander and Thai basil- yum! And there is even some kind of ‘kitchen challenge’ happening- Poppy’s seafood bisque vs. Scotty’s crème brûlée.

However, last Sunday was all about Poppy’s paella!!

Did the Spaniards get it right when they invented paella or what? First of all it scores massive points for its fresh deliciousness. Secondly it deserves honours for being the most impressive and generous way to feed a small crowd. But best of all paella has to be the most beautiful looking meal EVER. And maybe the most social! There is minimum prepping involved and once all your ingredients have been tossed into the pan there is not much to do but have a drink, enjoy your guests’ company and occasionally stir your glistening yellow masterpiece, all the while looking like a super fox. Ah, Poppy you do it well, you’re a dream boat...hung over and all.

SERVES 20 +

Ingredients
3 onions
4 big cloves of garlic
1 red capsicum
2 yellow bell peppers- any combination of super colourful capsicums and peppers is OK.
3 punnets of cherry tomatoes- different coloured ones for added prettiness.
2 cups of peas
2 large salmon steaks
2 spicy chorizo sausages (poppy’s faves come from Casa Iberica and I swear by the beef chorizo from Peter’s Meats in Brunswick)
2 mild chorizo sausages
2 handfuls of pippies
20 or so mussels
1 kilo prawns
olive oil
paprika
'Sazonador Paella’ spice (available at Casa Iberica)
salt
10 cups of paella rice (again available from Casa Iberica, if you can’t get your hands on paella rice use Arborio)
2 litres vegetable stock
approx 1.5 litres of water
saffron
lemons

Method
1. Rob, steal, cheat- do whatever you have to to get your hands on an iron paella pan. Poppy’s came from Casa Iberica in Fitzroy.
2. To make things as easy as possible get all your prepping done first. Begin by chopping chorizo sausages and set aside.
3. Dice onions and garlic. Roughly chop capsicum and bell peppers into bite size pieces. Place onion, garlic, capsicum and peas together in a bowl.
4. In a sink under cold water rinse pippies and mussels, removing the beards as you do so.
5. Coat salmon in olive oil and about a tsp of paprika.
6. Fire up your paella pan. Place salmon on hot pan skin side down. Once cooked remove from heat and set aside.
7. Add your chorizo to the heat. At this point it will will begin to smell amazing and the flavours from the chorizo will start infusing into the pan. Take off heat once it starts to get a bit crunchy.
8. Toast 10 cups of rice on the dry pan with paprika and other spices.
9. Gradually add stock and water, stirring occasionally like you would a risotto. Add three or so saffron strands to one cup of water before adding to paella.
10. Return onion, garlic, capsicum and peas to paella. One by one add tomatoes, chorizo, salmon (gently breaking into pieces as you add), whole prawns, mussels and pippies.
11. Once the rice is absorbed and you have a nice tasty crust on the base your paella is ready. Add lots of quarters of lemon to top and serve directly from pan. Your paella can be grazed on all afternoon!