The June three-day weekend is the perfect opportunity to gather friends and loved ones together to eat. But what to cook? Here John Newton suggests paella - leave your favourite dishes for sharing with friends below.
What better way to spend the birthday of our head of state than cooking a paella with a bunch of friends. Why paella? It has nothing to do with Australia. But then neither, I'd argue, has the Queen of Great Britain.
That aside, it's a holiday tradition in rural Spain to go out to your little orchard - your huerta - build a fire, and make a paella while sharing a glass of tempranillo or three with friends and family. And one thing that makes this a ritual equally applicable to an Australian holiday is that it's the blokes who cook the paella. Like barbecuing the bangers here, for some men - depending, of course, on how unreconstructed your male friends/family are - it's the only time they have anything much to do with cooking. And if you haven't got your own orchard, the backyard will do just fine.
Of course that doesn't mean that everyone can't get involved with the meal. If you're making a really big paella, everyone can muck in with the preparation. And I don't think there's a better way to spend an extra day off than getting together with friends to cook a meal which you'll then sit down and eat convivially.
You'll need a 40cm paellera pan to cook it in, the best are made from either polished carbon or enamelled steel. If you haven't got one, you can use a large black steel frying pan.
A couple of points to remember: first, this version doesn't contain seafood. Its complete name is paella valenciana de la huerta - meaning from the Valencian vegetable garden. Paella was a product of rice cultivation in the river deltas inland from the city of Valencia. Seafood, which came from the coast, was not easily transportable, and expensive. But of course, if you want to add some prawns, no one's going to stop you.
Second, only stir the rice once - when you put it in. If you have cooked the paella properly, you will end up with a brown, toasty caramelised circle of rice at the bottom of the paellera. This is called the socarrat, and is given to the most honoured guest. If Her Maj turns up, give it to her. And don't forget to toast the republic with a good Australian tempranillo.
Serves four (or eight by doubling the ingredients). Luckily, both broad and borlotti beans are in season now.
100g fresh and double peeled broad beans
100g borlotti beans ditto
100ml olive oil
300g organic chicken thighs cut into pieces
300g rabbit, cut into pieces
8 cloves garlic, peeled but whole
125g green beans, cut into pieces
100g tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and finely chopped
16 cleaned snails in their shells. Or if you don't fancy snails ...
300g unshelled green king prawns
4 strands saffron
1tbs sweet smoked paprika (Spanish pimentón is best, and that called la vera the best of all)
1.75l chicken stock
500g la bomba rice (the finest Spanish rice, or calaspara if you can't get it)
Heat the chicken stock to just below simmer
Heat the oil in a 40 cm paellera with a little salt. When it is hot, add the chicken, rabbit and garlic and fry over a low heat until the meat is golden brown.
Add the green beans and fry for five minutes, before adding the tomatoes and cooking for a further three.
Meanwhile boil the snails (if using) in a separate pan for five minutes, and drain.
Crush the saffron then dissolve it in a little boiling water.
Add the pimentón, then quickly add most of the stock and bring to boil. Always leave a little stock in case you need it later. Add the borlotti and broad beans. When boiling, add the snails, rosemary and saffron and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
Throw in the prawns if using and sprinkle in the rice, stir through the other ingredients and boil over a high heat for 5 minutes, then gradually turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes - or until the rice is cooked and the liquid has evaporated.
Eating with friends: Don't forget to toast the republic with a good Australian tempranillo. Photograph: Tracy Hebden/Alamy