When in Spain I tried and tasted my way through their traditional dish of paella.
Paella is a rice (or noodle) dish that is characterised by being cooked in the one pan, as opposed to Chinese fried rice, which is prepared by cooking the majority of the ingredients, including the rice, individually before the ingredients are combined.
Paella is most commonly presented to the table in the pan in which it was cooked, and then served to individual diners from there.
A rice paella will have some crust on the bottom of the dish; don’t worry as it is part of the texture of the dish. The golden colour of the rice is achieved by the use of saffron. By way of further definition,
3 tablespoons olive oil
250g fish, skinned and cut into cubes
200g cleaned calamari, cut into rings and the tentacles retained
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 red capsicum, seeded and roughly chopped
400g tin tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup Spanish or risotto rice
2 cups vegetable or fish stock
1 cup white wine
6 saffron threads soaked in 2 tablespoons hot water
200g green prawns, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)
12 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
6 langoustines, left in the shell
Fresh parsley sprigs
Lemon wedges to serve
(1) Heat half the oil in a Paella pan or large frying pan. Add the fish cubes, calamari rings and tentacles to the pan and gently stir fry for a couple of minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish and calamari from the pan and place to one side in a bowl.
(2) Heat the remaining oil in the pan and add the onion, capsicum and garlic. Sauté for about five minutes, stirring frequently until the onion and capsicum have softened. Stir in the tomatoes and sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the rice. Stir well to coat the rice with the contents of the pan. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes before adding the stock, wine and saffron, including the water it was soaked in. Season the contents of the pan with freshly ground salt and pepper.
(3) Gently stir in the reserved fish and calamari (as well as any juices that may have formed) to the rice mixture. Add the peeled prawns, peas and mussels. Push the mussels into the rice mixture to facilitate their cooking. Cover the pan and cook over a gentle heat for approximately 20 minutes.
(4) Working quickly, remove the lid from the paella, place the langoustines on the top of the rice, replace the lid and continue to cook for a further ten minutes. The ideal result for the Paella is for the stock to be absorbed but the rice is still moist. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened.
(5) Remove the Paella pan (frying pan) from the heat and allow to stand, still covered with the lid, for five minutes. At the end of five minutes, remove the lid from the pan; sprinkle the paella with a little parsley and serve with some lemon wedges.Reads: 1950