Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Cricket Bats, Skillets and Other Weapons of Anger

After the whole Oscar Pistorius scandal and the ongoing saga surrounding the happenings, I thought at length about the weaponry available in the kitchen. That is, apart from the obvious supposedly sharp knives that are quite blunt in fact. Well, in my experience, mostly anyway. And apart from the other obvious weapons in the hose, like cricket bats and baseball bats and the more innocuous looking rolled up women's magazines.

And I wondered about the vagaries of using kitchen equipment as weapons. A cricket bat featured in the statements made and the evidence gathered in the Oscar Pistorius case. I wondered how many skillets have been used in anger as a weapon.

Perhaps the kitchen equipment have been used for millennia in anger to prepare angry food! I know of at least one case where policemen in barracks have been fed angry food with overdoses of various spices after they mistreated their hired cook. In such cases the skillet is most definitely a weapon, but used in a more subtle way, perhaps.

Blunt knives and useless kitchen equipment have become such an epidemic that I now take my personal chef's kit along whenever I travel. This kit includes three properly sharpened knives, including a large chef's knife, a solid bird knife and a small paring knife. Include a proper peeler that can also peel squash pumpkins, a small sharpening device, a GI can opener and a small cutting board.  The small cutting board is replaced by a big end grain cutting board when I am not flying or sailing. Add to this a proper silicone spatula from le Creuset and you are almost there.

And not to forget my spice box. It is horrendous how many people have no idea of using spices and just mix ready-made sauces, or even worse, ready mix dry powder sauces (read chemical concoction) in various brews and call it food.

But today I wish to discuss the various uses of a skillet. We have touched briefly on its use as a weapon, in direct and other subtle ways.

A skillet is heavy. With good heat retention characteristics and really useful to cook on. Or is it 'in'? Make no mistake, I regularly use my heavy cast iron utensils.  However, for my travel requirements I need something lighter. Something that I can use on the gas hob over the coals or over dancing flames. For use in grilling meat, making stir fries, pancakes, flapjacks and, last but not least, paella. My favourite Spanish food.

Kitchen weapon of choice for the moment
So I shopped around and found a real Spanish paella pan at Perfect Paella. At a really decent price, with sizes and finishes to satisfy even the most eclectic fashion tastes. And they are quite light. I purchased one in polished steel. These pans are nicely finished with no surface treatment other than a layer of oil. You clean them by boiling some water in it, drying, then oiling lightly with olive oil. The pan will get a layer of olive oil baked into the surface with use. Complete with the flavours that you use in the pan, rather like a wok. I like it this way. Over time the pan seals completely and nothing ever again sticks to it. You clean it by wiping with a wet cloth.

I went the whole hog and cleaned the pan as per instructions, not wanting to take chances. I bought some real Spanish paella rice along with the pan and used the recipe on the back of the pack as a broad guide to what I was about to make.

The pan performed way beyond what I expected from the first use. No burning, no heat spots, no discolouring of the steel. I used a stainless steel egg lifter to stir the food. One of the plus points of using a plain polished steel pan. No problem there. I  made a medium sized fire in the Weber kettle and plonked the paella pan on top of the grill. Be careful when handling the paella pan, the steel handles get hot. The pan needs a medium to hot fire. I think one will need to experiment a little with the size of the fire.

The beauty of using the kettle braai is that one can put the lid on the kettle and let the dish simmer. The fluid in the pan steams and it controls the fire a bit. The steam also heats up way past  the boiling point of water, adding to the heat distribution inside this makeshift oven. All of this work towards very good cooking.

This pan is getting an honourable place in my kitchen. It is a very good tool. In the house, on camping trips and on travelling holidays where you have your own travel medium. Like a car. This won't work when flying.

Al fresco cooking
The recipe for the paella is quite simple: Two diced tomatoes, a clove of garlic, two diced onions, two cups of rice, some sea food, some chicken, salt to taste, seafood stock, paprika or Spanish saffron. Some olive oil. Add water as necessary. Fry the chicken pieces until brown, remove from the pan then fry the sea food, using a dollop of olive oil to lubricate the pan as required.

Remove the sea food when almost done.

Then add the onions, fry until translucent, add the garlic and fry for ten seconds, then add the dry, uncooked rice. Fry this until the pan goes almost dry, then add some of the stock. Keep on stirring and frying, adding first the stock, then water as required until the rice is almost done. Add the paprika or saffron while the mix is still quite wet and runny.

Add back all the meat and fish, garnish with chopped parsley and a cupful of fresh garden peas and simmer until everything has cooked through.

Make sure that most of the water has boiled away or has been absorbed; this is paella, not risotto.

The result: perfect paella

I added a chopped Thai chilli, pips removed. The paella must not be too spicy. I also added some fresh coriander leaves chopped, along with the parsley. A sprig of chopped spring onion was added along with the peas. And I added some fresh turmeric in lieu of saffron.

Smoked paprika apparently works wonders too. I shall purloin some somewhere in the near future. It adds a very special character to the dish.

Allow the dish to rest for fifteen minutes before dishing up, as always. It allows the flavours to develop. Have a glass of red wine while you wait, it is good for you.

Buen apetito!


Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-03-12


  1. Roald Dahl has a wonderful story of a wife that killed her husband with a frozen leg of lamb. She then cooked the lamb in the oven and fed the meat to the investigating police officers. Murder weapon was never found.

  2. Ons werk hier met kos, moenie so violent raak nie! :)

    Klink na 'n uitstekende toevoeging tot jou kokery en die Paella klink heerlik!

    1. Nogal! Maar dis 'n lekker intro vir kos met vuur, nie kwaai kos nie!