Paella

This is one of the best know dishes in and from Spain and one of the most loved.

Pronounced pa-ay-ya (the LL is a Y sound in Spanish), this flavoursome yellow rice dish comes in all different versions and has been adopted and made in many homes even outside of Spain.

* Paella is so named because of the pan it is cooked in. Paella means frying pan
* Paella not a risotto – that is also made with short grain rice but that rice, Carnaroli, is from Italy and is a bit wetter in texture than paella
* The Spanish never, ever, ever mix meat and seafood…..except for tourists
* Paella was originally created in Valencia….where the short grain rice, Bomba, is grown
* The original country version of paella is made with rabbit and snails, seafood paella is made along the coast
* Paella is normally cooked over a fire made with wood imparting a bit of a smokey flavour. If this is not available to you, you need a large gas ring similar to the size of the pan (both pans and rings are readily available in Carrefour in Spain and are cheap). Failing this, use a standard gas ring but this will affect the cooking time and you may need a bit longer and might have socrat only in the centre of the paella where the heat is from the gas flame.

Notes

Decide on the protein and whether you’ll be making a seafood or meat paella, No veggies required for a seafood paella.

Prep can be done ahead of time – even a few days ahead. Leave the final assembly and cook just before serving. Allow for about 45 minutes which includes resting time.

Buy the best bomba rice you can afford – Bomba Reserva is a good version and may be a bit more expensive but I promise, will be worth it when you eat the final product.

Please use good quality, ripe tomatoes. Buy vine tomatoes that smell of tomatoes and leave these to rest in your kitchen away from direct sunlight for a few days to ripen fully. Never, ever, ever put tomatoes in the fridge…..please.

Find the best quality chicken you can afford.

Use a good quality saffron and please don’t replace it with turmeric or instant paella flavour/colour mixes.

Please don’t skip the resting time as this finishes the cooking of the rice

Paella is always cooked in a shallow frying pan and is NEVER stirred. A 1 cup paella (made with 1 cup of bomba rice will feed 2-3 very hungry eaters or 4-5 regular eaters (especially with starters) and should be cooked in a 24-26cm pan.

Besides not stirring, you are aiming for a very caramelised (not burnt but fairly dark) crispy layer of rice across the bottom of the pan. This is called socrat and is prized among seasoned paella makers.

It does take some practice to get the cooking of paella right. Keep practising, use good quality products and try and use the same products and pans so you get used to the cooking times.

The dish

Serves 4 depending how hungry you are and is a 1 cup (rice) version.

You will need a 24-26cm frying pan with a lid or tin foil to cover fully

Ingredients

SOFRITO
4 tblOil, olive
150gr1 smallOnion, white, finely diced
1/2 pepperPepper, sweet, RED, finely diced
300gr3 tomatoesTomatoes, vine, ripe, grated
3 clovesGarlic, fresh, grated
pinchSaffron, toasted and soaked in 1 tbl hot water
1/2 tspPaprika, smoked, picante (hot)
1/2 tspPaprika, smoked, dulce (sweet)
1/2 tspSalt, sea, not fine (adjust to 1/4 tsp for fine)
1/4 tspPepper, black, freshly ground
MEAT & VEGGIES
500grChicken, thighs, with bone & skin. Cut into 2 through bone (3 or more, if larger) OR Mixed fresh seafood
1/2 tspSalt, sea to season raw chicken
200grButter beans, tinned
200grRunner beans, tinned
150grPeas, frozen
RICE
4 tblOil, olive
200gr1 cupBomba Reserva
100grWine, white
2 cups Broth, chicken or fish, good quality, full flavoured (use 2 stock cube per 2 cups hot water)
Have extra stock on hand
SERVING
wedgesLemon, fresh, 1 wedge per person regardless of protein
Parsley, flat leaf, chopped
Allioli

Method

Prepare a small “cup” of tin foil. Place saffron in the tinfoil cup and over a very low heat, toast the saffron. Watch carefully and do not allow to burn. Allow to cool and crumble into 2 tbl hot water.

Gently sauté onion & red pepper in 4 tbl olive oil.

Add grated tomatoes, garlic, saffron, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt & 1/4 tsp black pepper. Cook over low heat till soft and tomato liquid has evaporated and the sofrito has thickened. Set aside till ready.

When ready to serve and begin cooking, heat 1 tbl olive oil in paella/frying pan, salt chicken and fry over medium – high heat till brown. Remove and retain oil.

In paella pan, add 4 tbl olive oil to oil left from frying chicken & gently fry raw rice stirring constantly.

Add white wine & fry again till dry. Add sofrito and stir through. Add stock and stir through then place beans, peas & chicken on top of simmer rice, settling everything in stock. Shake the pan – no more stirring please!

Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. If your heat has been a bit high, the stock will evaporate before the rice is cooked. Add a bit more hot stock over the top of the rice. You will need to judge this as there is a fine line between cooked rice, no stock and making socrat.

Turn up heat to high and fry for further 4mins to create socrat.

Remove from heat & cover tightly. Leave to steam for 10 mins. DON’T PEEP! This will finish the rice cooking to soften the centre of the rice. Please don’t skip this step.

Remove lid or tinfoil and garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley and wedges of lemon. Serve with a bowl of chilled allioli.

SEAFOOD PAELLA
For seafood paella, cut fish into 3cm cubes (hake or cod are good)
Remove the fish from the fridge when you begin to cook the paella
Simmer rice and broth uncovered for 16 minutes.
Nestle fish/prawns/squid/mussels (flat side UP) in rice and continue to simmer for 4 mins. (20 mins in total)
Turn up heat to high and fry for further 4mins to create socrat. Listen for the change in sound as the base of the rice starts to fry.
Remove from heat & cover. Leave to steam for 10 mins. DON’T PEEP!
Garnish with flat-leaf parsley and wedges of lemon.

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