Paella- Quicker, Tastier, and Easier than you think
If you have ever holidayed in Spain then you without a doubt you will have tried the wonderful dish of paella.
During the centuries following the establishment of rice in Spain, the peasants of Valencia would cook rice with easily available ingredients from the countryside: tomatoes, onions and snails. On special occasions rabbit or duck might be included, and the better-off could afford chicken. Little by little this 'Valencia rice' became more widely known. By the end of the nineteenth century 'paella valenciana' had established itself.
Today Paella remains a firm favorite with the Spanish and has become more than just a food. Paella symbolises something that the Spanish hold dear; Social, family gatherings. The appeal is that it is an entire meal for a whole family in just one dish. Whole families of 20+ people will all go to a restaurant to eat paella, or cook it at home over on the weekend when the whole family will help to prepare the meal. The cooking of the Paella is as much a part of experience as eating it and the whole thing can be considered a “Fiesta” where everybody laughs, jokes, debates and argues who is the best Paella cook!
Giant Paella in my local village
I eat Paella as often as I can, but it never tastes better than when we get together with our friends and head up into the mountains to the national park. Crammed into our cars, our boots laden with food and drink we drive until we find the perfect spot. There, the wood is gathered for the fire, while we sit around and shoot the breeze sipping a glass of “Tinto Verano” while the paella simmers creating the most sublime aroma...heaven!
But I digress; the reason for today’s Hub is to get you cooking Paella, not just talking about it! Many people have never tried Paella, dismissing it completely out of hand as being too difficult or time consuming. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have travel all the way to Spain to enjoy mouthwatering paella, as you can cook one in your own home!
The first and main thing that you are going to need is a Paella pan. The good news is that these days you can buy Paella pans almost anywhere. My personal recommendation is to get yourself a good one made from Carbon Steel. This might cost more than their steel or aluminum counterparts, but like with everything else in this life you get what you pay for. Invest in a good Paella pan and it will last you a lifetime. I find that a 15 inch pan is perfect for most occasions and it will serve 6 as a main course or 8 to 10 as a tapas serving or side dish.
If you enjoy making and eating Paella as much as I do then you might want to consider buying a paella burner. These are used to create a more even heat over a larger area of your pan, but to be honest I find that results can be just as good over your standard gas bbq or the largest ring on your stove.
Quick and Easy Paella
Below you will find a really simple recipe for 4 which I have tried to keep as authentic as possible:
Chicken thighs: 6 pieces
10cm of Chorizo Sausage
8oz Can chopped tomatoes
Small can of green peas
Plain flour: 1½oz
Paella rice: 11oz
Sweet paprika: 2 teaspoons
1 medium onion
Garlic cloves x2
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (twice the quantity if fresh)
5 tablespoons of Olive Oil
1½ pints of Chicken Stock
Salt and pepper
As you will see in this recipie I didn’t include Saffron. Sometimes the cost and availability can put people off making Paella. If you wish to use it then great, but if you don’t have it then a small amount of food coloring will work just fine.
If you can’t get hold of Paella rice then try using Arborio rice.
Likewise if there is something on the list that you don’t have then substitute it for something else similar. If there is something not on the list that you want to add, then experiment! The important thing is to have fun doing it!
Finely chop the onion. Chop the Chorizo into chunks
Finely chop (or crush) the garlic.
Add two tablespoons of olive oil to the frying pan and turn to a low heat. Add the onions and garlic and fry for 15 minutes.
This will soften up the onions but not brown them. Remove the onions from the pan and put aside.
Add another two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and turn it up to a medium heat. Add the chicken and fry until browned. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside.
Now add the onions back to the pan with the Chorizo and cook for 4 more minutes.
Clear the pan ingredients to the edges, leaving an empty circle in the middle. Pour the tomatoes into the centre and sprinkle over the paprika. Cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes.
Stir well and pour in the chicken stock. Season well with salt and pepper or to taste and simmer on a medium heat for 30 minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium / low. Add the rice evenly over the frying pan. Sprinkle on the saffron (or food colouring) and rosemary then mix the ingredients well for the last time. Add the chicken pieces placing them round the pan and pressing them gentley into the rice. Simmer gently for 25 to 30 minutes, shaking the pan gently from time to time until all the stock has been absorbed by the rice. If Paella looks like it needs some extra liquid then add some.
All the times stated will vary depending on the type of pan and heat source. If in doubt, just go with your instinct…whats the worst that can happen? Practice makes perfect!
When it’s ready then take the pan over to the table and let everyone serve themselves!
Some of the Paella purists out there who are reading this might be horrified at the exclusion of some of the more authentic ingredients, but this is supposed to be a simple recipe, designed to get those who have never cooked Paella before to be able to do so with confidence!
For those of you interested in learning a bit more about the history of Paella and getting some great recipes thrown in then take a look at the 2 excellent the books below.
The beauty of Paella is that it doesn’t really matter what you put into it. As long as you make it with love then it will taste fantastic! In no time at all you will be inviting all your family and friends over to try your perfect Paella!
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