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How to cook a Paella

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2021 10:10 am
by El Cid
Paella for 6 full portions (two helpings!)

20g garlic
150g red pepper
150g green pepper
150g onion
80g peas
350g tomatoes
250g Swordfish or Tuna
400g Calamari pieces (after cleaning)
18 prawns (or Crayfish)
200g cooked small clams
12 cooked mussels (on the half shell)
250g pieces of chicken
100ml extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp smoked paprika piquante
25 grinds black pepper
1 hpd tsp yellow food colour
3 fish stock cubes (Knorr)
8g Aromat (seasoning salt) or 1 extra stock cube
1 pack saffron
400g paella rice (Bomba or Calasparra)
800ml water

For this quantity a 43cm paella pan is about right. You can buy special paella gas rings. Traditionally paellas are cooked over an open wood fire but for most people that is not practicable.

Crush and chop the garlic. Slice the peppers into ribbons about 5mm wide and 5cm long. Chop the onion into 2 cm pieces. Peel the tomatoes and de-seed. Chop into 2cm pieces. Trim the swordfish and cut into bite sized pieces. You can use any boneless firm fish. Tuna fillets are OK. If you buy whole Calamari clean and slice into 2cm rings. Leave the tentacles whole. We tend to buy frozen chopped Calamari.
Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces and fry for 4 minutes until brown and crisp on the outside. This can be done well in advance. Chicken thighs on the bone are best. Leave some bone in.You can use drumsticks cut into pieces or wings if big enough (part the two sections)
Wash the rice in cold water to remove the starch. Handle it gently as it can easily break up into small bits. Drain and leave until almost dry.
Dissolve the stock cubes in the boiling water. Add the saffron and allow to steep for a few minutes. Measure out the spices into a small dish.
Add the oil to the pan and heat over the gas. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about a minute making sure that the garlic does not burn. Add the spices and stir well. Add the fish and make sure it is well coated with the spice mixture. Add the vegetables and stir well until the spices are well mixed into the mixture. Add the rice carefully making sure it covers the other ingredients evenly. You do not want pockets without rice or areas where the rice is too thick. Reheat the stock and pour into the pan. I keep the stock in a jug and warm it in the Microwave. You should not need to stir it, just prod it with a spoon to mix in the rice as the stock will not cover it initially..Add the clams all over and the mussels in a ring close to the edge of the dish. Now add the chicken pieces evenly around the dish with a few in the centre. When it is boiling fast start the timer for 10 minutes and cover the pan. Keep a careful eye on the progress. It is important that it just boils reasonably fast but not so fast that it burns. Reset the timer for 8 minutes and add the prawns lying radially around the dish with heads pointing out. Under no circumstance stir it!! By the time 18 minutes is nearly up there should only be a little liquid visible or none at all. If it seems still a bit wet, give it another minute or two. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for 5 to 10 minutes – this should allow any remaining liquid to be absorbed. Garnish with lemon wedges around the outside of the pan.
The only measurements that are critical are the oil, water and rice and seasoning. You can vary the rest to taste. If you feel generous then increase the expensive bits! You can use any size of clams – just use fewer big ones. Clams 2-3cm across seem about right. I always pre cook the clams and remove the top shell. I buy frozen cooked mussels on the half shell as you can see what quality they are. If you can’t get them, cook in the usual way and take off the top shell.

For larger or smaller quantities just use the recipe pro-rata. A 43cm pan will just hold a 6 person paella. Use an appropriately sized dish depending on the quantity. A real Paella dish is by far the best, but if you don’t have one use an equivalently wide shallow dish. If the Paella is too deep it wont be the same. It is usually only about 2cm deep. Don’t worry if the bottom gets slightly burnt - that is the sign of a perfect Paella - the Spanish even have a name for the “crust” -it’s called Soccorat.

I always prepare all the ingredients well before I make it, usually the day before. It’s then just a matter of throwing them all in the pan in the right order. The whole thing then takes about 40 minutes from start to finish and no tedious vegetable side dishes to prepare to go with it!