Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Recipe: Paella

We're on a Spanish theme with two fabulous recipes that I cook when I have some grilled capsicum in the fridge.

Paella is a dish I have been making for many years and one that definitely improves with practice.  This is the poor man's version in the Catalan style.  Every region, every town and just about every family will have it's own, but this is mine.  It is best kept simple - with just a few ingredients - just make sure you use the best and fresh.

NOTE:  There is no substitute for a good paella pan and home made stock.

1 free range chicken, cut into 16 equal pieces (the flavour comes from chicken with bone in it)
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can crushed tomato (or fresh if really ripe)
1 small handful of rice per person
NOTE:  Calasparra rice is best, but not always available.  Substitute with white medium grain - I find arborrio goes too gluggy.
1 litre+ good chicken stock
500 g cleaned mussels
Few strands of saffron
1 tsp paprika
1 cup peas
Salt to taste
Handful of grilled capsicum pieces

Fry chicken pieces in olive oil until golden, remove from pan
Fry onion until soft, then add garlic
Add rice and saffron, stir
Return chicken and add half of stock and can of tomatoes
Add salt and pepper
Cook until rice is just cooked with rest of stock.  Chicken will be cooked by then too.
In separate pan cook mussels until open, cook dry WITOUT WATER - their juices will come out when they open which gives the paella flavour, add peas.
When mussels are open add to paella and stir through

NOTE: It is sometime s difficult to get mussels to open if you add them to the paella raw - this way they are guaranteed to open properly and you still have their liquor to flavour the paella.

Adjust seasoning and serve decorated with strips of grilled capsicum.  Their smoky flavour gives an added dimension.

NOTE:  A crusty bottom to the paella is desirable, BUT NOT BURNT - this is where you tread a fine line.  The way I have overcome this is by freezing small containers of stock and placing one in the middle of the paella when it is cooking (Please don't read this Jamie or Nigella!)  This prevents the rice from burning while the iced stock slowly melts and prevents the rice from burning.  IT STILL HAS A DELICIOUS CRUSTY BOTTOM.



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