Saturday, 23 July 2011

Paella Performance and Cocktails.

Do you know, I don’t think I’ve made paella since (long pause) crikey, cookery school, 10 years ago. And how much better is a freshly made paella then those stodgy, hours old, tourist grabbing, yellow glowing paellas that practically have a bottle of factor 30 in hand, they’ve been sitting in the sun that long.

I’m sure there are some jolly nice paella restaurants out there (in fact there is one here that specializes in them, don’t worry I’ll try it out). It’s just that it is such a great dish that should be served and enjoyed uber fresh and hot off the stove.

I could have bought a huge paella pan to make mine in. Oh the temptation! There they were, from small to about 1 meter across, hanging off the wall of a lovely kitchen shop in town. I was busy justifying the expenditure and locating secret hiding places in the bilges or the lazerette that could house a massive paella pan, disguised maybe as a vital bit of boaty equipment. Give it a rollick and an oar and you could probably row some considerable distance in it; who would question it? But before I got too excited I had to remember that firstly I would have to cycle back to the boat with the thing possibly balanced on my head and most importantly my cooker is less then 2 ft square and I have no room at the inn for any more pans or fun equipment and certainly not the budget.


Hey-ho. My stainless steel saucepan would have to do. It’s best not to use non-stick pans and use the frying pan with the biggest flat base that you have. It shouldn’t be too heavy or cast iron because they retain their heat too much which will mean that when your resting your paella, once you have finished cooking it, the rice will still be cooking on the bottom. So it needs to be a pan that cools quite quickly. Either that or stick the base of the pan into a sink full of cold water. The important bit of the paella is the crust stuck on the bottom where the rice has toasted onto the bottom of the pan. So non-stick pans are not helpful for that.

Making paella is fun. It’s a dish you can be as traditional or as simple or as experimental as you dare and it always tastes lovely. Looks pretty good too. A feast for the eyes.  I stuck with a fairly traditional recipe using pork, chicken and seafood, peas and parsley and lots of lemon zest. They can be vegetarian too. And I made mine a little bit spicy but then I knew my audience.

Have a party! It’s summer and the evenings are long. Paella is best cooked on the barbeque or a grill where the heat will cover the entire base of the pan so that’s your perfect excuse to get some mates round for some paella and sangria in the garden. Actually I’m thinking Paella and Pimms evening, loaded with fresh mint…The old salad and crusty bread accompaniment and what a lovely evening.

I would if I were you.

For traditional (I think!) Paella for 6 people you will need;

2 medium brown onions finely chopped
1 large red pepper finely sliced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 small red chili (optional)
3 large tomatoes deseeded and roughly chopped (and skinned if you can be bothered)
2 chicken thighs, 2 drumsticks and 2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces.
8 rashers of bacon or a chorizo sausage or 2 pork chops, roughly chopped
400g paella rice (most supermarkets stock Spanish paella rice)
large pinch of saffron (optional, it’s expensive)
2 tsp sweet paprika
about 2pts, 1.2 litres of vege stock
12 fresh mussels all cleaned of beards and barnacles                     
1 small pack of cooked peeled shrimp
12 raw prawns with their shell
1 cup of peas
any other fish or shell fish that you fancy that’s in season


  • Begin by sautéing the chicken pieces in some oil until lightly browned all over and then set aside.

  • Using the same oil, fry the pork/bacon pieces until lightly browned and set aside.

  • In another pan, steam open the mussels and discard any that remain closed and set aside.

  • Back to the paella pan using the bacon fat, sauté the onions with a tsp of sugar until softened but not too coloured. Add the red pepper slices and chopped tomatoes and continue to sauté for a few minutes.

  • I finely chopped the tender parsley stalks and added a good tbsp. Then stir in the paprika, and chorizo if using.

  • Now pour in the rice and stir well to combine with all the lovely ingredients over the heat and sauté like this for 3-4 minutes. Then pour in the hot stock and add the pinch of saffron.

  • Return the chicken and bacon or pork to the paella and bring to the boil. Give it all a little seasoning with salt and black pepper. Then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and stirring occasionally let the stock be absorbed by the rice. This will take about 20 minutes.

  • Before the 20 minutes is up, add the raw prawns and peas to the paella so that they have a good 6-8 minutes cooking time and have gone a nice pink colour. Once they have gone pink and the rice is almost cooked add the chopped parsley, lemon zest and cooked prawns and mussels to the paella giving it a brief and gentle stir, kind of more of an incorporating wiggle.

  • Serve with lemon wedges and salad.

So apparently the first paellas were made with Water vole meat, eels and snails. Probably wise to stick to chicken and/or fish I reckon. Not sure where to get Water vole. Saying that you can get some ‘out-there’ things at the markets here. They have a fair amount of offal for sale. Any part of any animal you’d like to munch on is available…

Like I said; I’ll stick to the chicken and fish.

Thanks for reading. Hope you have that garden party with paella and Pimms. Let me know how it goes. Don’t forget the fresh mint.


The night lights of Barcelona