We love camping as much as the next family but given our propensity to think through our stomachs, we tend to put as much thought and effort into planning our camp menu as we do into choosing a destination, and despite the restrictions of an esky and a single burner camp stove or fire, never skimp on flavour. But of all our camp cooking favourites, this easy campfire paella is number one on our kids’ culinary hit parade.
Dating back to mid-18th century Valencia, Paella was born to be cooked over fire. In fact, back in the day, the Valencians used wide, flat pans (paelleras) to cook their rice outside over wood fires, using whatever meats and vegetables were available. The most important ingredient is the rice, and while bomba is best, any short grain rice like Arborio, will do the trick as they absorb liquid easily.
While our Paella at home is cooked in a carbon steel pan that heats quickly and doesn’t retain too much heat, when we’re camping anything goes and we find our cast-iron pan works just fine. The only thing to remember is whatever dish you use, you must not stir your paella as it cooks, as the socarrat, that deliciously crispy crust that forms on the bottom of your pan, is essential to a successful paella.
Though this time we whipped up our easy campfire paella up our camp stove, we think it cooks best over coal, just like in the old days. Just remember to get your fire prepped about an hour before cooking so there are plenty of hot coals, not blazing flames, as they offer more constant temperatures. It’s also worth noting that while cooking over coals does take a little more time, the smoky result is worth every extra minute.