“In-a Spain, we don’t play by the rules. We don’t use no measurements.”
Not the sort of thing you hear in a typical cooking class, but then Lola is not your typical teacher. Argentinian by birth, speaker of five languages, and a resident of Melbourne since 2012, she runs Hola Con Lola, a Spanish language and culinary school, based near the South Melbourne Markets.
It’s pretty much the most Spanish thing you can do on a Sunday morning. Lola starts by taking the class through the markets, picking up fresh prawns, calamari, chorizo, saffron, Bomba rice and everything else you need for a wicked paella. You’ll pick up a few Spanish phrases, learn about the ingredients and the history of tapas, and get chatting to the various stallholders. Then it’s back to HQ for the most important bit: cooking and eating.
Hola Con Lola’s paella classes also include multiple jugs of DIY sangria. You’ll be chopping oranges and apples, snapping cinnamon sticks...splashing in a double dose of Cointreau when Lola’s back is turned...
After the Sangria is prepped and chilling in the fridge, it’s time for the main event, paella.
“There are two types of paella, depending on where you are in Spain,” Lola explains. “Near the coast we use seafood. Mussels, clams, squid, fish, prawns. And inland, near Madrid, we use rabbits, snails, chorizo and so on. We don’t mix together. But this is Melbourne, and when I say no chorizo in the paella, people get very angry. I get my hands chopped off.”
Lola has two bi paella pans on the hob, and the class is divided into (slightly competitive) teams. You chop the onion and capsicum, grate the tomatoes, fry off the meat and seafood, add the homemade fish stock, bring it all up to a simmer and wait for that trademark soccarrada crust to form.
Meanwhile, Lola sets up tables out in the sunshine. You get to drink Sangria, eat fresh paella (some of the best we’ve tasted, if we do say so ourselves), and enjoy a little Spanish hospitality. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday...
Image credit: Michelle Jarni