As we are not globetrotting this summer I decided that our Saturday evening meals should be at least holiday themed over the summer – partly to encourage myself to cook something different instead of making variations on salad every night. Last night I decided to make paella. I used to love making paella when I was first married, had a proper paella pan and bought rice in Spain to bring home. I no longer have the paella pan but my Le Creuset heavy cast iron pan did the job well. The rice is available at the local grocers and the other ingredients were a combination of things I can eat – fresh peas, a couple of tomatoes, a little chicken and lots of onions plus some spicy chorizo sausage and prawns for my son. We had fresh herbs from Spain courtesy of my friend Liz and I already had some saffron from making saffron buns earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Le Creuset. The whole thing came together beautifully and was very tasty, all the better for spending the last 15 minutes in the oven keeping warm. Making it made me look back to my early years of cooking, I grew up determined to learn to cook as Mum was not a keen cook, she made the same meals on the same day each week – if it’s Tuesday it must be lamb chops, grilled to a charred, leathery texture and served with peas and boiled potatoes. I used to raid my mother’s Good Housekeeping magazine for recipes and kept a little scrapbook of dishes I wanted to make. Since most people’s idea of foreign food at that time was Vesta Chow Mein it was difficult to get ingredients and many of them were vetoed by Mum before I started as “nasty” a term used for garlic, yoghurt, most spices and in the fabric world for polyester which was always spoken of as “that nasty polyester”. I’m not a fan of man made fabrics either but I was amazed at Mum’s dislike of certain foods as she happily tucked into tripe, Fray Bentos steak pies (in a tin!) and ox tongue. I became an expert at sneaking ingredients into the fridge and into the food without her noticing but never converted her to yoghurt unless it was strawberry flavoured and bright pink.She considered the main course as something that had to be eaten in order to get to the desert so she was much more inventive with puddings and cakes and could always be relied on to have something sweet in the cupboard as a treat. I share her sweet tooth so have tried hard to develop and interest in savoury food too as I had no wish to follow her example to need to have dentures by the age of twenty one.