After more than 20 years of making rice in a large casserole, I decided that it was time to treat myself to a proper paella pan (I bought it from http://www.paellaclick.com/). This one in particular is a 40cm diameter pan, and with these amounts, it will serve around 6-8 people. One thing to remember when cooking this sort of rice (in UK called pudding rice) is the proportion of rice to liquid: 1:5 for a dry rice; 1:6 for a sweet rice and 1:7 for rice stews (arroces caldosos). Funnily enough, “paella” isn’t actually the name of the meal itself, but the pan it’s cooked in. The meal is just rice, with whatever else you want to combine it with.
Since I started making paellas, I was told that they never have fried onion incorporated, so now I don’t use any onion at all!
Fish head, tail, bones / onion (for stock)
Olive oil (aceite de oliva)
2 chicken thighs, washed and cut in half (2 muslos de pollo, cortados por la mitad)
2 ripe tomatoes, cut in half and pulp grated or chopped tinned tomatoes (2 tomates maduros, cortados por la mitad y rallado el pulpo o tomates troceados de lata)
1 italian green pepper, cut into chunks (un pimiento verde para freir, cortado en trozos)
8 smallish squid, cleaned and chopped (8 calamares pequeños, limpios y cortados)
250-300g frozen prawns, defrosted (250-300g gambas congeladas, descongeladas)
Handful baby clams (un puño de almejas o chirlas)
Paprika / Food colouring / saffron threads / salt / garlic / fresh parsley (pimentón dulce, colorante, hilos azafrán, sal, ajos, perejil frescol)
3 glasses pudding rice (arroz redondo-SOS or arroz bomba-la Fallera)
6 glasses fish stock
1 dozen mussels, cleaned (mejillones limpios en vacío)
Roasted red peppers, or a tin of the same (pimientos rojos asados o una lata de lo mismo)
Peas, optional (guisantes, opcional)
Make a stock, simply by boiling the fish head, tail, bones – cover with water, add an onion cut into 4, salt to taste and boil for 20mins.
Heat a good quantity of olive oil in the ‘paellera’. Salt the chicken pieces well on both sides and add to the pan. Fry on both sides until starting to turn golden. Add the chopped green pepper and continue cooking for a further 5-10mins. When you see that the veg is quite soft, add the squid, prawns and clams. Mix well and carry on cooking until you can see the prawns and squid change colour and the clams opened (discard any unopened clams).
Now add the tomato pulp and simmer gently until you see the liquid reducing somewhat and thickening. Add a good sprinkling of paprika and food colouring. Stir well, fry a couple of minutes more (not too long otherwise the paprika will burn) then add 6.5 glasses of the fish stock. Check the stock for salt, taking into account that it needs to be quite salty, as the rice tends to make the dish tasteless otherwise. Simmer gently now for around 15-20mins, uncovered. Crush 2-3-4 cloves garlic (to taste) with salt and a few saffron threads and freshly chopped parsley and add to the pan. Now add the 3 glasses of rice (and peas if using) – – stir once, and simmer gently for around 15mins, shaking the pan from side to side occasionally. 5-8mins before the end of cooking time, add the cleaned mussels.
If you see the rice is drying up before the 15mins is finished, just add a bit more water or fish stock. Remember, this rice is very easily overcooked, and the perfect paella should complete its main cooking time with the rice quite ‘al dente’ with ‘some’ liquid left over. Now turn off the heat, cover with aluminium paper and let the paella rest for 5mins, during which time it will absorb the remaining water and finish cooking the rice.
Paella is one of those dishes you can make with any ingredients of your choice, after the primary base. You can use chorizo, chunks of spare ribs (costillas ibéricas), belly pork (panceta), lean pork (magro de cerdo), monkfish (rape), crayfish (cigalas), mussels (mejillones), runner beans (judías verdes), white beans (pochas) peas (guisantes), young garlic sprigs (ajetes) – – just about anything you fancy really! ENJOY!!
And these next photos just go to show that you can make a good paella in the UK, although it’s impossible to find yellow food colouring (although the saffron does quite a good job!).