I had one of the most incredible experiences of my life yesterday. Tomas (left, friend) asked me and Cam (right, brother) if we could help cook Paella for the Town of Comares. Er... YEAH! Cam and I share a passion for food, I love cooking it, Cam loves eating it, nah, we both love eating it.
Comares is the most beautiful white washed town high up on the mountain top, overlooking lush green hills down to the sea. Every Janurary they celebrate their Patron Saint, San Hilario with a sombre mass, a procession through the town, music, beers, dancing, rum and cokes and PAELLA!
Cooking for 1,300 people struck a little fear into my heart. We met the team at a road side cafe, and although I felt we didn't have much time to prepare, we sat and had breakfast in the sunshine. Eating well is important in Andalucia, you don't miss breakfast because you have a busy morning ahead, you set yourself up properly, with pitufos and coffee. I'll be honest here and tell you I felt a little apprehensive being the English girl in a group of macho Spanish men. Turns out any friend of Tomas is a friend of his friends and when I raised my eyebrows at the steep snaking roads up the mountain, one chef dug a mint out his pocket and told me it would sort me out.
I couldn't believe the size of the paellera, Cam is over 6ft and was swamped by sheer size of it! First things first, man make fire. Surround in sand. Get all ingredients and prep out. That's over 100 kilos of rice! BreadLemons!
The locals take a seat near the square, bringing sherry, bread and cured pork fat from home. Set up of the bar, drinks and paella 1 euro each, 3 for a Rum and CokeViews from the cemetery, a short walk from the square.Cleaning the pan. A little grease is left on the pan, year to year to maintain its non stick. So now we have to get it hot, pour a litre of vinegar in and scrub away. Really gets up your nose.
Firs thing in is the olive oil and chicken, then garlic. It's already smelling good at this point.We had to use oars to stir the paella. It's hard work and we took turns, the generosity and hospitality of the locals was overwhelming and if I didn't have an oar in my hand, I had a beer, a sweet wine or some tapas! What is hard to describe is how much hard work it was. We had such a laugh but my god, your legs got so hot, one chef singed all the hair on his arm, and the SMOKE. The smoke in the eyes was unbearable and with one gust of wind you would be temporarily blinded, my eyes still sting a little today, from yesterday. Eyes stinging...beer break. The crowds gather! Check out one chef's son, in his little whites. This boy is going to be doing this for years to come, I just know it. He got hot and weary too. It took nearly an hour to serve the whole town and we were working at an incredible speed. I can't tell you how good it was to serve up the last bowls amongst the team and have a cold beer in the sunshine. As soon as I felt tipsy and the dancing began, we were whisked off to a nearby house for coffee and doughnuts before heading into the bars for a heroes welcome ;) and drinks on the house with Verdiales performing in the bar and in the square. Old and young, dancing, singing.. the Spanish know how to have a good time. One more drink before home time. What a memorable day, we've been asked back next year, so couldn't have done a bad job. Thank you Tomas, and the team we're still on a high.