Saturday, 19 December 2009

Seafood Paella

This paella recipe is one of my favourites.  The techniques are largely simple and the dish will taste great if you do them right.  There's also enough process here to make you feel really good when it does taste great, so you get the best of both worlds.  Because you're using good seafood this is perfect to impress especially as it packs a great flavour.  If you don't want or like seafood you can mess around with changing the type of stock and main ingredients.  Rabbit is a very traditional one for instance.  I use the Moro cookbook's paella recipes for basic quantities, temperatures and times, though I have found myself tweaking these, especially as I feel the use about a quarter too much stock and underestimate how much people eat.  The use of green beans in the base is stolen shamelessly from my step-mother who makes the best paella around.  Since you probably wont get that this will do as a substitute.

For 2 hungry people or 3 weedy people

16 Uncooked Prawns - its very important these are with shells and head
A Large Squid or a few smaller ones - sliced into rings
This will be fine but any other seafood you like can go in, clams, mussles, and razor clams are particularly reccomended.

280 Grams Paella Rice
1 Pint Stock (made with the prawn shells)
About 5 0r 6 Inches of Chorizo (normal sausage thickness) - diced into half cm cubes
2 Good Sized Onions - finely diced
1 Green Pepper - finely diced
1 Large Handful of Green Beans - chopped to the same size as the above
5 Cloves Garlic - very finely chopped
A Generous Pinch of Saffron
A Splash of White Wine (or Dry Sherry if you prefer)
2 or 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Peel your prawns and set aside the heads and shells.  Heat a tbs of olive oil in a saucepan and start to cook the shells and head along with a few whole peppercorns.  Crush them in the pan so they release their flavour and keep doing this occasionally as your stock cooks.  If you have prawns for a meal that require shelling or have shells and head leftover from a meal, its not a bad idea to bag these and freeze them as long as they are clean for future use in stocks like this, if you've done this and you want to save a bit of cash you can buy a few less prawns.  When they have turned pink cover with water and simmer gently.

While this is happening heat a couple of tbs olive oil in a large frying pan or paella dish.  Add your diced up chorizo and allow this to crisp up slightly and release its oil.  When the cooking oil in the pan has turned red add the onions, green pepper and green beans and fry until soft and starting to brown.  When the are turning add in the garlic and allow the whole thing to get very soft and nicely brown, you can also add a tbs of tomato puree when there are five minutes left to go as this adds to the richness of the flavour (though I invariably forget to do this).  The main fault most people have with cooking like this is not to allow the onion to properly soften.  All the liquid needs to have evaporated out before its really starts frying properly.  Over a moderate low heat this should take around 20 minutes to half an hour.  Watch it and stir relatively regularly to stop it burning.

While this is happening put your saffron in some warm water and allow it to infuse.  Strain you stock into a measuring jug.  You may want to crush the shells and heads a bit more at this point and add some more water into the pan with them to get the last of the flavour out.  When the stock is ready have it all in the measuring jug and add the saffron and its liquid.  Add warm water to make this up to a pint if necessary, or some chicken/fish stock if you have it, conversely if you have too much reduce it down in the pan till it is the right amount.  Set aside.

When the onion mixture is ready add in your rice, turning it through the mixture and cooking for around a minute to absorb the oil, then add your splash of wine or sherry to deglaze the pan and the prawns and squid as well as any other seafood you have opted for.  Don't worry about the squid getting tough.  Squid need to either be left to cook very fast, or much slower, its only the in-between stage that leaves it rubbery.  At this point season the whole dish fully.  Make sure the rice and everything else is evenly distributed in the pan and add the all the stock.  Don't stir it anymore.  If you stir a paella its not a paella because you release all the starch.  That's the effect you want for a risotto because it makes it creamy but here you want each rice grain to be nice and separately coated with its own sauce.  According to the Moro cookbook stirring also interferes with the stock channels, stopping your paella from cooking evenly.

Cooking should take around twenty minutes maybe more, but start checking the rice at 15 by tasting a grain or two for doneness.  Also be aware that since the pan is large the heat may not get all of it evenly, especially on a gas ring, so you may need to move it so different parts have more direct contact with the burner.  At the end most of the liquid should have been absorbed leaving only a bit of coating on the rise.  There will also be a crust on the bottom.  Don't worry this is meant to happen.  If its too burnt don't eat it, but normally its a treat to scrape it off once all the main bits have been eaten.  You can garnish the whole thing with the squid tentacles fried separately if you have them or not worry about it at all.

1 comment:

  1. this is extremely yummy - just dont try to get in the way of dan eating the crusty bits stuck to the bottom of the pan...