When shopping last week, and doing my usual groceries, I stumbled upon a pack of something I haven’t eaten in quite some time…Paella…. The image on the package of saffron coloured rice with chicken and seafood made me think of the Paella I once had in Madrid, in a little restaurant/tavern near the Plaza del Sol, the very centre of Madrid. I don’t quite remember which one of the three paella’s on the menu I chose, but I do remember the gorgeous taste of the chicken and seafood. Too bad for me, the Paella in the supermarket here was a far cry from the freshly cooked kind in Spain and was but the ready-made frozen version that you just need to heat up in the microwave, and which will, chances are, taste like nothing that resembles that lovely Paella I had in Madrid. Takers anyone? I gathered not…..
What I like about Paella is the versatility of the dish, you can opt for a vegetarian version, the traditional classic version born from the cooking pots of Valencia which (contrary to popular belief) is cooked with beans, chicken or rabbit, but never seafood; a mixed paella with both meat and seafood, and so on. The varieties are endless, and abundant, and although my ‘paella’ doesn’t have saffron in it, I still think I can call it Paella style rice.
My version was inspired by different recipes and styles you can find online, and filtered out the things I didn’t like or don’t have available on our little rock. I also did not have any saffron at hand this particular evening, so I had to make due with was already in my cupboards. I strongly suggest that you prepare the ingredients beforehand, where possible so you have everything handy for when you start cooking.
Ingredients (serves 2-3 persons):
- 2 cloves of garlic, diced
- 2 portions rice, approx 80 – 90gr – if possible Spanish Bomba rice, but if not any rice that absorbs quite a lot of moisture will do. Do try to avoid basmati rice if you can
- 350ml chicken stock
- 80 gr peas
- 100 gr mixed bell peppers, cleaned and sliced
- 200 gr of my leftover simple tomato sauce (which is tomato, onion and garlic)
- 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon of mild curry
- salt & pepper
- some butter for frying
- Rosemary (optional)
- 100 gr chicken, cubed
- 200 gr mixed seafood, cleaned and washed. I addd a mix of mussels, crab sticks, baby squid, prawns and cod fish
Take a medium size saucepan and put on a high heat, and add the butter. When melted, add on the garlic and onion and let sweat for a minute. Then add the rice and let sit for a few minutes till translucent. In mean time, add the curry and turmeric to the chicken stock and stir till well dissolved.
Poor the chicken stock over the rice, garlic and onion, and add on the left over tomato sauce, peas and peppers and stir once. Place a lid on your pot, lower to medium heat and leave the pot in peace. It is tempting to start stirring but this will only release the starch from the rice, so put down that spoon and step away from the cooking pot! I put a timer of approx 15 -17 minutes for a taste & tenderness check, so nothing was sticking or overcooking- Paella should remain a bit al dente so to speak.
In mean time, add some butter to a skillet and put on a high heat. When the butter is melted, add on your seafood and fry for a couple of minutes with some rosemary, pepper and salt till almost done. Set aside and use the same pan to fry your chicken. Once cooked, add the seafood to the chicken in the same pan and keep hot.
When your timer has announced that 15 -17 minutes have passed, remove the lid carefully from the sauce pan with the rice, the escaping steam can be extremely hot. Taste if the rice is cooked al dente, and if all the liquid is absorbed. If not, leave for a few extra minutes. Once ready, taste the rice for flavour and season with salt and pepper as required. Also add in the chicken and the seafood and stir well. Serve hot and if possible, with a Vaso di Vino Tinto, and enjoy!