SouperchefannatravelsxSpain foodie inspiration, paella my version! Every country has their nationalistic pride when it comes to food and in Spain’s case there is the paella. The most iconic of all, the Paella Valenciana originating from Valencia. The original Valencian Paella recipe consists of a combination of chicken, rabbit, rice, green vegetables, artichokes, peppers, bomba rice, white runner beans, saffron, fresh rosemary, sweet paprika, garlic and lemon.
I had the opportunity to travel around Spain recently and paella was one of those dishes that is offered in every restaurant as set lunch menu on every Thursday. Throughout Spain, over time, the original recipe has been refined and other variations have been adapted for inland areas creating the infamous Paella Mixta which combines a variety of white meats, seafood, sausage and chorizo. The Valencians are very proud of their dish and they do not recognize this Paella Mixta as Original Paella Valenciana.
In my opinion, this dish can be incredibly flexible and delicious and you can use whatever ingredients you fancy or have available and rice is medium to bring it all together. It is important to note, that paella is a rice dish with seafood, and not seafood dish with rice. The whole essence is to enjoy the flavorful rice paired with some ingredients. Normally, you would use a proper paella pan, but in the service apartment we stayed in Zaragoza, they only had a long shallow baking tray which besides its shape, was actually the right depth . So a rectangular baking dish it shall be!
You will need:
- 200g Arroz Bomba (*risotto rice or any medium grain rice is ok)
- 150g squid cleaned and sliced
- 150g mussels or clams scrubbed clean and debearded
- 200g fresh chicken sausages (chorizo or any type of fresh pork sausages) sliced
- 250g chicken breast cut into chunks
- 150g red bell peppers deseeded and roughly chopped
- 150g green bell peppers deseeded and roughly chopped
- 250g white onion roughly chopped
- 200g button mushrooms chopped
- 200g canned whole peeled or canned diced tomatoes
- 200g white or green asparagus boiled and grilled lightly
- 50g pimento asado (optional)
- 500 ml fish stock +200ml spare fish stock
- 4 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
- 90 ml extra virgin olive oil
- a pinch of saffron thread, soaked in boiling water ( a pinch is probably about 0.1 to 0.2 g which is in fact very little)
- 1 tsp of smoked sweet paprika or sweet paprika.
- 300ml white wine
- salt to taste
- Lemon wedges and parsley for garnishing
- Heat a large paella pan or a large wide based pan or in my case, a rectangular shallow oven tray over medium heat and add the olive oil, the sliced fresh sausages and the chicken breast. Stir occasionally, and fry till it starts to take colour. Remove from the pan, leaving the oil behind. Set aside.
- Add the chopped peppers, onions and garlic. Fry gently until the vegetables start to soften and become translucent and mushy. This is the sofrito, the base of any good paella. Add the button mushrooms and stir to combine.
- Add the previously cooked sausages and chicken breast to the pan.
- Add the paprika and the tinned tomatoes. Keep stirring to avoid any ingredients getting burnt.
- Pour in 500ml fish stock, 300ml white wine, and the soaked saffron threads in hot water. Stir well.
- Once boiling, add the rice and the pimento asados (grilled peppers) in an even layer over the whole pan. Keep stirring for a few minutes until all the rice is coated with the tomato saffron mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring everything to a boil and turn down to a low heat. The rice will start cooking. As I was using a flat baking tray, I had cold spots as I had to place the baking tray over 2 stove tops. If you are using a round paella pan, then there is no issue. I had to constantly turn the pan in my case. Cook the rice for 10 minutes or until you see that the stock has evaporated almost half way. At this point, check the rice for doneness, it should be half way cooked. If not, let it cook for another 5 minutes and check again. However, if you feel the rice looks a little dry, you can add a little fish stock that has been kept on the side for this purpose. (Tip: During this entire time, move the pan around as much as you want to even out the heat, but don’t stir the rice. If the liquid seems to be boiling off too quickly, you may need to add a little more, so the extra stock set aside is pretty handy)
- After 15 minutes the rice should be cooked, but still have a bit of a bite. Arrange the mussels and squid all over the pan. Cover with aluminium foil to allow the mussels to start to open and the squid to cook for a further 5-8 minutes. Discard any mussels that are not open.
- Traditionally, the rice is not to be stirred once it is in the pan as to develop that lovely crust known as the socarrat (from the Spanish word “socarrar,” which means “to toast lightly”). Socarrat is the caramelized crust of rice that sometimes sticks to the bottom of the pan. It is the prize in a well-made paella. (Tip: To get some, increase the heat at the end of cooking, paying close attention to the sound of the rice (it crackles) and the smell (toasty but not burned). After one or two minutes, poke under the foil with a spoon; if you feel just a touch of bumpy resistance on the bottom of the pan, you’ve got socarrat.)
- Lay on top, the grilled asparagus and lemon wedges. Stir in the chopped parsley leaves and it is ready to be served.
- *The rice should be medium grain. Spanish rice is rounded and short; it absorbs liquid very well, and it stays relatively firm during cooking. Those qualities make it ideal for paella, where the rice grains absorb flavor from the liquid; the rice should be dry and separate when done, not creamy like risotto. The most appreciated variety of Spanish rice is bomba. I have used arborio rice and with much success. The only thing, is not to add so much stock at the start when cooking with arborio and just add when the rice is a tad dry during cooking.
- Prawns or clams or any type of seafood can be used, depending on what is available.
- Traditionally, green peas are sprinkled on top of the paella and artichokes and green beans are commonly used. It is a matter of adding what is your favourite vegetable and what is available. It can be a simple comforting family arroz dish and it can be a flamboyant dish, a centrepiece for a flamboyant meal used to entertain your guests.