There’s something quite special about feeding a houseful of family and friends and one dish that’s sure to impress is our Paella Valenciana. Locating good quality ingredients and lovingly preparing ahead of time, is worth every amount of effort when you present your masterpiece for all to feast on. Eyes will light up, taste buds will salivate and you can revel in the hubbub and laughter around the table as everyone tucks in and shares their tales of recent events. This gathering will be one that memories are made of…….
My Top Tips for You
A couple of tips –the main, some say the most important, ingredient in your paella is rice so it’s important to choose wisely. It needs to be short-grain to absorb the liquid easily and to not dry out. My favourite is “Bomba paella rice1 available from Amazon. It speaks of quality even down to the little brown cloth bag that it comes in!
It’s worth using good stock too and you’ll get a real sense of satisfaction watching the rice swell as it absorbs this lifeline.
My choice of paprika is ‘La Chinata’2 – it brings a sweet richness to the paella along with a depth of colour and I’m lucky enough to have a friend who brings me some amazing saffron from Dubai.
I’d, also, recommend investing in a paella pan, which come in a variety of sizes to suit your household. On a practical level, this helps the rice to absorb the liquid more evenly and then toast to a crunch around the edges, known as socarrat – everyone in our house fights for this prized delicacy. Otherwise use a large, flat bottomed pan that will fit into your oven.
According to food writer, Elisabeth Luard paella lore states that a good paella should be cooked by the man of the house and eaten outside, preferably under the shade of a fig tree – what more of an excuse do you need to pass the cooking duties over!
One other point to note is that unlike a risotto, you don’t stir a paella whilst it’s cooking – to mix in the ingredients that’s fine but once it’s all bubbling away happily, if need be, lift the pan and shake it gently, otherwise you risk breaking up the rice.
So, this weekend why not try our Paella Valenciana recipe. You can adapt the ingredients to suit your taste – make it all seafood, a vegetarian option or switch the pork for rabbit which is the traditional Valencian version. The key is to prepare everything first, take your time, enjoy the cooking then bask in the glory as your work of art is presented to the world!
180ml white wine
1kg fresh mussels
250g shelled broad beans
300g French beans
6 cloves garlic
2 red peppers (or jar)
4 medium onions
4 large ripe tomatoes (or tin)
8 tbsp. fresh parsley
6 chicken thighs boneless (or breast do not overcook)
300g pork fillet
16 large raw prawns (or precooked)
2 litres chicken / vegetable stock (Check if gluten or lactose free)
800g Paella rice
16 stuffed green olives
Paprika (smoked La Chinata is fantastic)
Saffron threads 0.5 g (2 large pinches)
Himalayan salt and ground black pepper
Lucy Bee Coconut Oil
Scrub the fresh mussels discard any broken ones. Heat wine and add mussels, cook until they start to open. Remove from heat. Discard any mussels that do not open. Reserve the liquid and mussels separately. I’d advise straining the mussel liquid through a very fine sieve or muslin to remove any sand!
Briefly steam or flash boil the broad beans, then the French beans and finally the tomatoes so you can easily remove the skins.
Get a glass of wine, sit down and start to shell the broad beans, a labour of love but it’s well worth it!
Cut the French beans in to 1 inch lengths. Skin and then chop the tomatoes.
Place the saffron in 2tbsp. of hot water, leave to infuse.
If using fresh red peppers blacken them over a gas flame. Once burnt all over, place in a plastic bag and allow to cool. Once cool remove the skin and seeds and cut into strip. Or use peppers from a jar!
Chop the parsley, onions and garlic.
Skin the chorizo and cut in to bite size rings.
Cut the chicken thighs into large bite-size pieces, season with paprika and salt and cook in a paella pan or large frying pan until tender using Lucy Bee coconut oil. This might take 20 minutes or so. If using breast meat do not overcook. Remove and leave to cool.
Treat the pork in the same way, it will cook more quickly. You may need to add more Lucy Bee. Finally quickly fry the raw prawns, do not overcook. If using cooked prawns miss this step. Remember to season each with paprika and salt. Remove and let cool.
Now fry the onions in the paella pan until they start to go soft and golden, add the garlic, cook for a few minutes, and then add the red peppers, chopped tomatoes and parsley. This is an important step - cook this mixture gently til it really goes soft and thickens. It will go a dark red colour.
Now have another glass of wine!
If cooking in an oven preheat to 190 C, 375 F, gas mark 5.
45 minutes before you plan to eat you can start to cook the paella.
Stir in the 2 litres of stock, the saffron liquid and the reserved mussel juice in to the vegetable mix, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil.
Add the 800g of paella rice, only stir once. Add the chicken pieces, pork, chorizo, prawns and all of the vegetables.
Traditionally cook over a well spread low heat so it’s just bubbling for 20 to 30 minutes shifting the pan regularly. Do not stir or you will end up with a risotto. Where the rice and mixture sticks on the bottom of the pan is considered the best bit, known as socarrat.
If cooking in an oven it will need checking after 20 minutes.
Once the rice is cooked remove from the heat (oven), add the mussels and olives, and cover with a lid or foil. Leave to stand in a warm place for 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve straight from the pan with lots of lemon quarters to squeeze over. Bask in the glory you will receive from your grateful guests and have another glass of wine!
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