Wednesday 25 January 2012

Authentic Spanish Paella

When it's dark and cold as you get up in the morning, dark and cold as you leave work, and grey for most of the time in between, you need to try and bring some sunshine into your life in any way you can. And this winter, sunshine comes in the form of paella for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about eating seasonally and locally, and I try to do that even when making paella, yet there's no need to be obbessive about it, is there now? Just look at my beautiful paella and tell me it doesn't tempt you
A friend of mine, Mariana, who grew up in Spain, has taught me how to make this dish in the proper manner. It's always good to learn how to make something authentically first, as close to the original as possible, before experimenting I find. Like when I learnt to make risotto in the proper manner in Italy. It gives you a good strong foundation to build upon. Incidently, the only thing those to dishes appear to have in common is rice. And not even that really, since Mariana insisted that we used this particular rice, which sadly isn't widely available
Calasparra hails from Murcia, and although paella is traditionally Valencian, I've visited that part of the world and the arroz-type dishes are just as common in both the regions, though the meats, fish and vegetables vary. I had a beautiful rabbit paella in the mountains of Murcia for example. Of course, Valencian rice is just perfect. But do not be tempted to make paella with risotto rice, because it is simply too creamy
Here's Mariana hard at work, when she made it the first time a couple of weeks ago and I decided that when it comes to winter get-togethers with friends, paella is the way forward. Especially, if your friends are willing to help, because two pairs of hands come in really useful here!
Ingredients (serves 3)

2 cups rice
3 tablespoons olive oil
Red pepper, chopped into tiny cubes
Small onion, chopped into tiny cubes
1 tsp saffron
3 tsp paprika
Mussels - 3 handfuls
3 tiger prawns
2 squid, in rings
Fish stock cube
2 garlic cloves
Sea salt
Black pepper

Ok, bear with me here because I will need to go into quite a bit of detail. It's not my usual style, but as we've established, you need to do this properly the first time round. Firstly, the red pepper and onion need to be chopped very, very small, but not minced. Crush the garlic cloves and heat the olive oil in a large pan. Fry the garlic to flavour the oil then discard. Fry the onion until golden, then add the red pepper and continue to fry, not stirring too much as it needs to caramelize. Add salt to taste and some paprika. Meanwhile put the seafood in cold water, with the saffron and salt, and bring to the boil. Make sure it's all covered. Cover and cook for about 3min, then remove from the water. Add half a fish stock cube to the hot water, and allow to simmer. Now add the rice to the first pan and stir in for a little while, maybe 3-4min, before adding some stock. You do not stir again. Ever. You shake the dish a bit instead, to spread everything out evenly
It should look like this. Now leave it until the water evaporates, when you can add some more. Keep doing this, shaking the pan a little from time to time. Finally, arrange the seafood on top of the paella in an attractive manner. Cover the pan and allow to cook a while longer, until the rice is perfect. Basically after about 10min, try a bit and see what it tastes like. Sprinkle with more paprika and serve with lemon wedges. When you serve it, you'll see how it's all caramelized at the bottom in a slightly crunchy and incredibly tasty way. That's exactly how it should be - enjoy

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