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Paella

Origin: various cookbooks

Like risotto, there are a million ways to make paella. This is just one, it's a good thing to play about with.

Ingredients

  • Paella rice, about the same as for a risotto, maybe 75g per person?
  • Onion, 1 per 3 or 4 people is probably, and one for the white fish if using
  • Garlic
  • Parsley, and optionally bay leaf and thyme (see below)
  • White wine
  • Chicken (thighs and legs are best), maybe one leg per 2 people
  • Mussels, as many as you want
  • Raw prawns with shell, as many as you want, I usually go for 3 king prawns per person
  • White fish fillet, very much optional
  • Squid, one small one per 2 people probably
  • Red or green pepper, 1 per 2 people
  • Tomatoes, 2 or 3 cherry tomatoes per person is probably enough, but more is also fine
  • Saffron, 6 strands per person?
  • Salt and pepper

Method

There are quite a few stages to this, and if you're organised you can do them overlapping one another but it can get a bit hectic.

  • Prawns Remove the heads and shells. Cover and boil the heads and shells for about 5 minutes or so. Strain through kitchen paper, keep this stock but throw away the heads and shells.
  • White fish Poach in a court bouillon (a simple one made of water with sliced onion and a bouqet garni of parsley, thyme and a bay leaf), reserve the cooking liquid and set aside the fish.
  • Mussels Cook these by placing them in a saucepan, putting in enough white wine to cover the bottom of the pan by a centimetre or two, tightly covering the pan and boiling for a few minutes until the shells open. Strain the wine through kitchen paper and set aside.
  • Squid I'm not really sure about the best way of cooking squid. I'm reliably informed it should be shallow fried very fast, or very slow cooked, to avoid it being rubbery. For this recipe, slow cooked isn't an option so frying it very fast in a little olive oil is best, maybe with some garlic and parsley.
  • Fish stock Combine the prawn stock, the cooking liquid of the white fish and the wine from the mussels. You could make a proper fish stock if you want, but this ad hoc one works pretty well for me.
  • Saffron Pour a small amount of boiling water over the saffron threads and leave for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Vegetables Finely chop the onion and garlic, chop the pepper into small cubes or strips, and roughly chop the tomatoes.
  • Chicken Cut the meat off the bone and roughly chop. Keep the bones.
  • Putting it all together Soften the onion and garlic in some oil in a large pan (a paella dish if you have one). Add the chicken meat and bones, and cook for a little while. Add the tomatoes and cook for a little while, then the rice and cook, stirring to stop it from sticking, for a minute or two. Now add the fish stock and saffron to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it is ready. If it gets too dry just add boiling water, if it looks like it's going to be too wet turn it up to a fast boil (but this should be avoided if possible). It should be a bit wetter than a risotto, but there shouldn't be any loose liquid at the end. 10 minutes before the end add the pepper. 5 minutes before the end add the prawns. A minute or two before the end add the mussels, fish and squid, and remove the chicken bones. Finally, throw in a good amount of chopped parsley. When it's ready, you can stick it under a hot grill, or in a preheated hot oven, for a few minutes to make the top a little bit crunchy. This seems to be traditional, but is, in my opinion, completely unnecessary.

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