Romano’s Paella Masterclass, a fringe event for Eat Cambridge, took place on 24 May 2018 at the newly refurbished Black Horse café/pub in Dry Drayton. It was a great paella party! Our fun group learned to make this typical Spanish dish with Paola Davies-Romano, a fantastic teacher with an extensive culinary background. During the interactive class, we all helped out in the cooking of two big Valencian paellas, then enjoyed eating our delicious creation.
The Black Horse, run by Amanda and Colin O’Neill, was the perfect place for the event. The class was set up in the function room and the bar stocked a variety of drinks for participants to purchase, including a white wine from Spain (Torres Viña Sol 2017) just for the occasion. Amanda even made a Spanish orange and almond cake. The cosy pub atmosphere added to the success of the event and the group got to know each other over nibbles (provided by Romano’s) and drinks.
I helped out in the planning and promotion of the event and I assisted on the night. However, Paola had all the equipment and ingredients organised and it was easy to set up the room, with the cooking area at the front and tables for eating at the back. It was a big group so there were two paella stations. It was like being on a cookery show!
Paola, with decades of teaching experience, is a natural speaker and soon put the class at ease. No tedious talks. She gave tips and tricks to making good paella, a recipe handed down by her Spanish mum.
Paola also talked about the importance of Bomba rice and quality ingredients, encouraging participants to have a taste.
Everyone had a turn in making the paella… adding ingredients, frying, ladling stock and stirring when needed. Participants were free to ask questions.
A tantalising aroma soon took over the well ventilated room and mouths were watering. It was all so much fun. These faces speak for themselves!
Paola briefly talked about the socarrat, the brown, crisp layer that forms a crust at the bottom of the paella pan. The paellas didn’t quite get the crispy rice at the bottom as the focus was on keeping the class interactive so there was more stirring than usual. The paella was still infused with a lovely caramelised flavour.
Spectacular giant prawns (sourced specially for the class) and fresh mussels were the crowning glory, elevating the paella to new heights. It was almost a shame to cover them but 10 more minutes were needed for the mussels to open and the prawns to warm up.
Everyone enthusiastically queued to fill their plates with the paella they all had a hand in making. Romano’s provided bread (two kinds – olive and sundried tomato) and a mixed salad. The paella was delightful and some people came back for seconds.
At the end of the evening, the prized recipe was handed out and we all left with smiling faces and happy bellies.
On a closing note, there are heated disputes out there about what makes an authentic Paella Valenciana and which ingredients should never be used. Even Spaniards won’t agree with each other. However this fun and interactive event wasn’t set up to be a debate. It was all about trying new flavours, feasting on good food and having an enjoyable social and educational experience, led by vivacious Paola Davies-Romano. I know I’ll be making the most of our short summer and cooking up this wonderful paella, hopefully washed down with a nice glass of vino on a hot, sunny day!
Although I helped organise the event, all views are my own. I did not receive compensation for my review.
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