Paella! Wonderful for a family meal, or in larger quantities for a party. The perfect dish for a New Years Eve gathering!
Andrew: I have two paella pans, one for four people and a larger one that serves six.
Dawn: I’ll be there at 8 then! Perfect paella? Is that possible?
Andrew: Listen to the waiters in my favourite Spanish restaurant and they all say their paella is the best! Spain is made up of a number of regions, all fiercely proud of their culinary traditions.
Dawn: So they argue, do they?
Andrew: Fiercely! Do you remember the episode of Fawlty Towers when Manuel and Terry are fighting in the kitchen, and Manuel complains about Terry’s ‘Stinking Cockney Eel Pie’? A bit like that!
Splash of olive oil for cooking
1 small red or white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 of each – red and yellow pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into strips
2 chicken breasts, cubed
300g raw prawns (if they come unpeeled, leave them like that)
2 small chorizo sausages, skin removed and chopped into approx 1cm slices
2 ripe tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 tsp pimenton (Spanish paprika – if you can’t find this, use ground paprika)
Pinch of saffron threads
500g paella rice or long grain rice
1 medium sized glasses (125ml) dry white wine
A handful of frozen peas
Jug of warm water or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to season
Dawn: That is a mightily long list of ingredients.
Andrew: It is, and it is vital that all the preparation is done beforehand. It is a simple dish to prepare but it requires patience and a little care.
- In a paella pan, or the widest frying pan you have, add a drizzle of olive oil over a low heat and cook the onion for 5 minutes until it becomes translucent.
- Add the garlic and then the peppers and cook for another 5 minutes so they soften.
- Add the cubed chicken and keep it moving so it is coloured and sealed.
- Next, add the prawns so they turn from grey to pink.
- Immediately after the prawns have changed colour, add the chorizo to the pan. This will release the colour into the dish.
- Now put the tomatoes into the pan , and the pimenton. This adds a smoky flavour.
- The saffron threads can be added at this point, too.
Dawn: It is worth pointing out here that you can buy very good prepared paella spices.
Andrew: I had some with my first paella pan. Saffron is very expensive and it is so easy to be wasteful of it.
Dawn: Saffron can be more expensive than gold! What alternative spice can people use, Andrew?
Andrew: Tricky! Turmeric will give you the correct colour, but will change the flavour. I have seen suggestions of a little yellow food colouring. Powdered saffron is available too. The flavour it provides though is quite unique!
- At this point, add the rice to the pan and stir to ensure it is mixed with the ingredients and has a good coating of the oil and colours from the chorizo.
- Pour in the wine, and turn the heat down to a low simmer.
- The rice should take 20-25 minutes to cook. Keep gradually topping up the liquid with the warm water/chicken stock so the pan doesn’t dry out, but equally so it doesn’t ‘drown’ in liquid.
- 5 minutes before the rice is finished, add the frozen peas.
- Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving.
- Hang the lemon wedges from the pan and allow your guests to dive in!
Dawn: Fabulous! I can’t wait to try it. I have some vegetarian friends. What options would they have?
Andrew: Any vegetables that keep their shape would be great: broad beans, green beans, courgettes. Chick peas would be a tasty addition, too.
Dawn: Chick peas are an excellent source of protein, too. And what about seafood as an alternative, Andrew? Clams, mussels, scallops and squid?
Andrew: Absolutely, Dawn. Valencian paella features snails! For heavens sake don’t use your garden snails, please!
Dawn: I will leave that one! Great for New Year though!!!
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