Why you need to enjoy food around the table with family and friends to be happier in life + paella recipe

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Some of your happiest memories may come from time shared with family and friends. Most of these memories are built around a table, sharing meals, talking about how tasty the food is, and really being present in the moment and having a good time.

One of the things I’ve learnt from this pandemic is not taking those moments for granted and really valuing time spent around the table with my loved ones. In fact, research proves that spending time with friends and family will make you happier!

Making time for these precious moments is not only good fun, it is also good for our health, especially our mental health. We release happiness hormones when we connect with the people we love. These moments help us feel relaxed and to forget about problems. We tend to slow down, feel less pressure, and can be ourselves.

Creating more of these moments can help you unwind. It’s a great way to feel connected to yourself and others and reduce stress and anxiety levels.

In Spain, we are experts at creating time with friends and family around the table with mediterranean food. This is how I spent weekends most of my life when I was living in Spain. And the best way for me to do it is making a rice meal.

My father is an expert at cooking rice dishes, and everybody was always looking forward to trying his food. There are many ways of cooking rice meals in Spain. The most popular way is making paella from Valencia, which is the original recipe and part of the mediterranean diet. But there are many variants across Spain.

3 things to avoid when cooking paella –What the experts say: don’t add onion, don’t stir the rice, don’t add chorizo.

Now that I live in London, I make sure I create moments like this here, too. Although I live in a flat and I don’t have outside space, I still manage to make paellas every now and then.

I want to give you a free recipe from my book ““The Little Mediterranean Cookbook: How to Cook  Simple Mediterranean Dishes from Spain” so you can learn how to make paella at home with family or friends and be happier.

You can also click in “get the book” to read the rest of the book and learn how to make paella at home and be  

happier  by enjoying great food and the company of family and friends. 

Here is one of my paella recipes from my book: The Little Mediterranean Cookbook: How to Cook  Simple Mediterranean Dishes from Spain:

Paella de Mariscos – Seafood Paella Recipe

This colourful rice dish with mussels, king prawns, and squid will make your evening a memorable one. If you don’t have a paella pan, you can use a large pan instead. If you can, use fresh seafood, but frozen will do. If using frozen seafood, put it in the fridge to defrost overnight.

Difficulty: Easy Prep time: 15 min

Cooking time: 25 min Serves: 4

Special equipment: Blender


For the seafood stock

  • 8 cleaned mussels (we only need 4 but we have more in case they don’t open)
  • 50ml of white wine
  • 4 black peppercor
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 seafood stock cubes

For the tomato sauce

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tomato
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • pinch of sea salt

For the rice

  • 1 dry ñora pepper (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 king prawns in the shell, heads removed (keep the heads)
  • 200g squid cut into small pieces
  • sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon La Vera smoked paprika powder
  • 250g of bomba rice
  • ½ g saffron


  1. Optional: pierce holes in the dry ñora pepper with a sharp knife and soak in  warm water.
  1. Boil 200ml of water. Add the mussels, white wine, peppercorns, ground pepper, and bay leaf to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the boiled water, cover with a lid, and simmer for 3 – 5 minutes or until the mussels open. Don’t overcook as the mussels will turn rubbery. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a bit. Lift out the      mussels and remove the top half of the shells. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened. Set the mussels aside.
  1. Strain the mussel cooking liquid into a large jug or saucepan. Crumble in the seafood stock cubes and add enough boiling water to make 600ml of stock. Stir until the stock cubes have dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Add all the tomato sauce ingredients to a blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
  1. Wash the squid and dry with kitchen paper roll. Cut into small pieces. Set aside.
  1. Add 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a paella pan or a large pan, heat over high  heat. Add the prawn heads and sauté for a few minutes, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon to ensure they are nicely browned all over. Squeeze the prawn heads  well with the spoon to extract as much flavour as you can from them. Remove the prawn heads from the pan and discard.
  1. Add the prawn tails to the pan and cook over high heat for 1 minute on each side. Remove the prawns and set aside.
  1. Add the squid to the pan over high heat, season with salt, and fry for 1-2 minutes or until golden.
  1. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the paprika and prepared tomato sauce to the squid and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  1. Add the rice and a pinch of salt, and stir the rice for a couple of minutes so that it absorbs all of the pan flavours.
  1. Increase the heat to high, and add the prepared seafood stock to the rice. Add the saffron and stir to distribute the rice evenly across the pan.
  1. Optional: remove the ñora pepper from the water, and place it in the middle of the  pan.
  1. Once the liquid comes to the boil don’t stir the rice again. Cook on medium-high heat for an additional 10 minutes.
  1. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the mussels and prawns in a decorative way and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low and continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remember not to stir the rice!
  1. Remove the pan from the heat, and cover with aluminum foil or a cloth. Set aside for 5 minutes so that the rice continues to be cooked by the steam.
  1. Serve the paella in separate dishes or place the pan in the centre of the table so that people can serve themselves.


Quarter a lemon and place the quarters on the side of the rice dish, or on a small dish, so that people can add lemon to their rice if they wish.

Thanks for checking my blog. If you enjoyed it, please leave a comment below 🙂

If you want more inspiration to cook for your family and friends you can also cook some of the recipes on my book, “The Little Mediterranean Cookbook: How to Cook  Simple Mediterranean Dishes from Spain

If you’re stuck wondering what to cook this weekend or for a special occasion, you’ll find something delicious here. Start enjoying what you eat.

…or Click here to check out The Little Mediterranean Cookbook on Amazon.

Or go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/ THE LITTLE-MEDITERRANEAN-COOKBOOK

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