Culinary Odyssey (part 4): La Paella, Spain

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The paella I like to make at home is an all singing, all dancing affair laden with seafood and meat, although regional Spanish variations abound. Let's just say this is the champion's version, and in this supposed gloomy economic climate making this lavish but simple dish will bring a smile to your face and a content fullness to your stomach.

La Paella is actually a cooking utensil, traditionally quite shallow and made of iron, circular and with two handles on opposite sides. Paella originated in Valencia (Paella is Valencian for frying pan) where peasants would cook rice with basic, easily available ingredients such as onion, tomatoes and snails.

As this began as a simple, rustic, peasant style dish ingredients are flexible according to personal preference as are amounts used according to taste. I don’t use snails in my version.

Ingredients – serves 2 greedy people like me

1 generous cup of Bomba rice
White wine and chicken stock half a cup of each (add more depending on how you go)
Half a Spanish onion
Pinch of paprika
Dozen or so capers
A cup of frozen peas
1 small red Pepper roughly chopped
1 clove Garlic
Handful of black olives
Pinch of saffron strands
2 chicken thighs
6 raw king prawns
6 mussels
Handful roughly chopped but chunky pieces of chorizo
Handful of flat leaf parsley chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

 

My Method

I tend to brown the skin of the chicken thighs on a very high heat just for 6-8 minutes then remove them from the pan.

Using same olive oil and chicken juice, sauté the onion and garlic, add the pepper then add the rice making sure it gets thoroughly coated in the oil. Takes about 5-7 minutes

Add the stock and white wine gradually. Place the part cooked chicken thighs back into the mix and now add olives, paprika, saffron, peas, capers and chorizo.

Continue to cook for a further 10 minutes reducing down any excess liquid.

Add the mussels and prawns, salt and pepper – these take only 5 minutes to cook with the lid on now so the steam cooks the mussels

Final touch is to sprinkle the parsley over the top, and raise a glass of Rioja. Red or white Rioja will serve an ace, as either will compliment this dish with its chicken, chorizo, mussels and prawns. Alternatively, crack open a bottle of San Miguel if lager is more your scene.

Your Words, Not Ours

You can try your own hand at an traditional Spanish paella at the Cortijo Rosario, a cosy converted farmhouse in Andalucia. But don't just take our word for it, here's what Chris and Anne Down had to say:

"Accommodation at the Cortijo Rosario, a converted farmhouse, is very comfortable, homely and clean, with an authentic Spanish feel and decor – we felt very at home there. It is located on a hillside in the countryside, surrounded by olive groves and open farmland. The whole area is unspoilt by tourism, and is a world apart from the ‘Costas’. The food was excellent and plentiful! Authentic Andalucian cuisine – we even had a cookery lesson, provided by Maria – what a privilege!"

 

 - Chris and Anne Down, Authentic Andalucia, March 2015

 

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The patio at the Cortijo, where paella is served The patio at the Cortijo, where paella is served

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