Memories of Spain
We recently holidayed in Spain and right on the beach was a father and son cooking paella in the biggest paella pans you have ever seen – as big as tractor tyres over flaming coals. It was sublime and eat as much as you like for 8 euros. A real moment in time to be treasured.
But if you fancy having a go at making the dish yourself – just use a very large frying pan, don’t pile the food up too much, keep it relatively ‘thin’ hence the large traditional dishes. There must be thousands of variations of this traditional Spanish national dish , but here is the version we use when cooking for our own family and friends – just leaving the big pan in the middle of the table so everyone helps themselves. Copious jugs of cold sangria optional.
For 4 generous portions…
-Don’t use any extra oil, just ‘dry fry’ 150g of chopped Spanish Chorizo for about 4 minutes.
Whilst cooking, the meat will release all its red spicy fat.
-Now is the time to add 2 large sliced onions and 2 sliced peppers (any colour) and a couple of cloves of chopped garlic (optional) with a couple of teaspoons of smoked paprika that will fry in the ‘tasty’ oil, just for a couple of minutes.
-Add a generous splash of white wine or sherry. Simmer further, for a few more minutes, allowing the alcohol to evaporate a little.
-Stir in 300g paella rice (it really does need the right type of rice – paella please - which will absorb 3 times its weight in the tasty liquor)
-Then a tin of good thick tomatoes, and about 250ml of vegetable or chicken stock. Perhaps some seasoning dependent on the stock you use.
-Stir a little to make sure the rice is covered in the rich tomato sauce, moving it around from the edges into the middle.
Unlike risotto rice that needs constant stirring, just stir as little as possible ensuring that the rice absorbs all the liquor.
- Simmer for about 15 minutes until the rice is cooked and most of the liquid absorbed. You may even think you need to have a little more stock if it looks like it is a tad too thick – whatever your paella looked like in the taverna!
Now to add whatever you like – a bag of mixed seafood is brilliant or a good handful of big uncooked prawns (that will cook in just minutes), obviously they use fresh in Spain, but frozen is fine. Slices of cooked rabbit and even snails are very traditional, but maybe not so much to our Merrow tastes even if we did have easy access to such ‘treats’. Instead, we use pieces of cooked chicken or slices of pork loin. Frozen peas also go very well.
Whatever meat or fish you add make sure that it will only take 5 minutes or so to cook in the bubbling rice, lid on.
You can easily make paella vegetarian or even vegan by adding to the rice whatever veggies you fancy, cut small to cook or already pre cooked, a tin of drained butterbeans is good and maybe some asparagus, spinach leaves, olives or sliced mushrooms.
Once all is cooked allow to rest, lid on, for about 10 minutes. The paella not the cook.
Serve topped with chopped fresh parsley and lemon wedges.
A superb dish.