It must be half term… / bills midweek paella!

16 02 2012

‘I’m just a home cook, really, a well-meaning amateur who reads a lot.’

Bill Granger (Australian chef and restaurateur)


Apparently breakfast at ‘bills’ (his use of lower case ‘b’ & apostrophe omission – ‘struth!’) is ‘bonza’ and something of a Sydney institution. One of these days maybe…   


It must be half term. Number one daughter is home for a couple of days TLC / R&R.

In keeping with my new-found enthusiasm for ‘Teach Yourself Spanish’, and ‘Learn to Play Acoustic Guitar’ (not at the same time of course), last night’s meal was an Andalucían classic.

Well, strictly speaking-speaking, it was my take on one of, Aussie, Bill Granger’s ‘TV Dinners’ – ‘Midweek Paella’ – which I snipped out of the ‘i paper’ some time ago.       

This recipe serves 4 – Esta receta para cuatro personas’ just showing off!

You will need:

  •          1 tablespoon olive oil
  •          8 chicken thighs (boned)
  •          150g frozen prawns
  •          150g frozen seafood cocktail
  •          ½ teaspoon paprika
  •          ½ teaspoon flaked sea salt
  •          1 x medium onion – chopped
  •          2 cloves of garlic – crushed
  •          200g paella rice
  •          170g jar of chargrilled peppers in oil
  •          1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock
  •          A generous pinch of saffron
  •          100g of frozen peas
  •          Ground black pepper
  •          Lemon wedges to serve

This is what you do …

  • Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan
  • Mix the paprika, salt and ground black pepper – rub into the chicken
  • Fry the chicken over a medium heat until browned
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and transfer to a plate
  • Reduce the heat, add the onion & garlic – cook for 3 mins while stirring 
  • Tip the rice and peppers into the pan – cook for 1 minute more
  • Pour over the stock, add the saffron, and stir well, bringing to a simmer
  • Stir in the peas and cook for 5 minutes
  • Add the chicken and cook until ‘done’, and the rice has absorbed most liquid (approx 15 mins)
  • Finally add the prawns and seafood – continue cooking for another couple of minutes.
  • Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing


Accompany with a bottle of ‘Berberana Reserva Clásico 1877’ and John Williams’ ‘Spanish Guitar Music’

¡buen provecho!



It must be half term. Every day brings another pronouncement on education…   

New Chief Inspector of Schools, self-styled ‘Dirty Harry’, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has come into office with a Magnum type bang, shooting from the hip, in his bid to raise standards in schools – Clint Eastwood style.

He has already condemned 5000 headteachers as ‘lacking leadership’, labelled 3000 schools as ‘coasting’, and announced that 25% of previously ‘outstanding schools’ are not, actually, or at least won’t be, under his proposed new ‘Ofsted Inspection Framework’.

‘Satisfactory’ is now apparently a synonym for ‘requires improvement’ and will be air-brushed from Ofsted speak, in the same way that ‘very good’ disappeared a few years ago. Henceforth schools will fit into four categories: outstanding, good, requires improvement, special measures –good luck to them!       

Wilshaw is clearly a man with a mission, and an ego. It is always worrying when the head of an organisation sets out to promote him-self in such a way that his public image becomes greater than that of the institution he represents.

Wilshaw, like his Hollywood cop hero, thrives on confrontation, and I fear for those heads and teachers, already struggling to do their best in difficult circumstances, who fail to meet the new standards. ‘Dirty Harry’ has them in his sights and they’re set for the, ‘Go ahead, make my day punk…’ treatment, before being blown away.

At least we now know the reason for the gender gap, in school performance, between girls and boys. It’s because female teachers mark boys down, so they don’t bother! According to findings of the Centre for Economic Performance, women teachers, on average, award lower marks to boys than girls – verified by unidentified external examiners. Male teachers, conversely, award higher marks to boys. But as there are far more women than men in teaching – it’s boys who suffer right the way through their schooling.        

This report is a cracker. If the response from number one daughter is anything to go by – stand by for fireworks in every staff room in the country!       

Finally, today, it has been announced by yet another ‘independent’ report, that labelling schools as,‘failing’, does absolutely no harm at all. Far from being demotivating, Ofsted’s ‘special measures’ tag is such a great incentive that almost all schools, branded in this way, raise their exam results within a 12 month period.

So as long as the the ends justify the means, that’s okay. Ofsted is ‘raising standards’, and, under ‘Dirty Harry’, its tough stance is about to get tougher – boom, boom!    





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