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Reflections With Paella

Mahendrany Balapaskaran shares a delicious recipe

Photo Credit: Author's own. Bentley Priory Nature Reserve in Stanmore

Did anyone imagine this would happen, when we all enjoyed Christmas with our loved ones last year? Covid-19 has transformed the way we live and work all around the world.

As we adjust to the new normal life of mostly indoors, we’re relying more on modern technology to communicate and experiencing limited face to face interaction with neighbours as well as family and friends (if they happen to live nearby). While events, social gatherings, holidays and travel are halted, zoom parties and web conferences have sprung to the rescue for some.

Many of us are fortunate enough to have parks or nature reserves within reach, to get fresh air and exercise, important for both our physical and mental wellbeing. As we embrace the warmer weather, the spring blooms are in the open and I am enjoying my walks, our garden and Mother Nature more than ever.

Now is the ideal time to do those things we’ve put off for so long, such as spring cleaning and decluttering our homes. However, this is easier said than done! I must confess I haven’t made much progress myself and would rather be at work. It’s virtually impossible to find a supermarket delivery slot online, rightly prioritised for the elderly and vulnerable. Our shopping has become infrequent with every item of food at home being treasured.

I am delving deep into my kitchen cupboards to grab items stored for months and years, trying different recipes to regain my lost culinary skills. I’m not the best cook but given the circumstances, this is serving the purpose.

With our reliance on takeaway food currently diminished and dining at restaurants a distant memory, I’d like to share an easy, versatile recipe - using everyday ingredients - for you to try and hopefully enjoy!

Photo Credit: Author's own, Bentley Priory Nature Reserve in Stanmore

Paella - my way

Serves 4-5 people

Caution: Not suitable for people with allergies to seafood and nuts


450g Basmati rice (or any white rice) washed well

350g prawns or shrimps

250g scallops, washed and dried.

2-3 tbsps of light olive oil

1 large or 2 small leeks

2 large carrots

2 peppers

1 large onion

3-4 green chillies

5 cloves of garlic

Small piece of stem ginger

Small piece of cinnamon and 3-4 cardamom (optional)

2-3 tsps of coriander powder

1 tsp of cumin powder

Pinch of turmeric powder

1x400g can of chopped tomatoes in juice

2 tbsps of Maggie coconut powder dissolved in 1 cup of water

1.5 litres of hot fish or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped coriander leaves or parsley or rocket to garnish (optional)


1. Finely chop all vegetables.

2. Stir fry chopped carrots, leeks and peppers in a wok using some olive oil.

3. At the same time fry chopped onions, chillies, ginger and garlic separately in a frying pan using the rest of the olive oil, adding cinnamon and cardamom if preferred.

4. Transfer the onion mixture, once tender and about to brown, to the frying vegetables in the wok.

5. Add a generous knob of butter or margarine and continue to fry vegetables for another 2 minutes.

6. Add in the washed rice, chopped tomatoes, coriander, cumin and turmeric powders, as well as salt and pepper, and continue to stir and cook for 4-5 minutes in medium heat.

7. Pour the hot stock and coconut milk, stir well and bring to boil.

8. When it starts to boil, reduce the heat and cook covered for 15 minutes.

9. Now add the scallops and prawns, mix well and cook covered in low heat for a further 8-10 minutes.

10. Add extra water as necessary to cook the rice to your desired consistency.

11. Once the rice is cooked and all the water has absorbed, stir well and leave it to rest for 5 minutes.

12. Garnish with chopped coriander and enjoy the meal with a glass of white wine.

This recipe is adaptable, and you may use more prawns or shrimps instead of scallops. Vegetarians can use cooked/roasted chestnuts or cashews instead of seafood.

Mahendrany Balapaskaran


This is a photo sent by a reader on 18.5.20, cooked for his wife's birthday. Very very tasty!!


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