Seafood Paella

This Paella has to be the most satisfying thing I have ever cooked, and equally as simple to boot.  Upon deciding to cook Paella I knew I had to collect some key equipment and ingredients.  The most important tool for a paella is the Paella pan or Paellera.  This pan has a large surface area and is particularly shallow; you can find a Paella pan in any good cookware store.  I would recommend a pan with metal handles, so you don’t need to worry about burning wood or melting plastic while cooking your paella.  The key ingredients that a Paella cannot do without are smoked paprika, saffron, raw chorizo (in my opinion) and of course the rice.  The correct rice to use in a Paella is Bomba or Calasparra.  Bomba is the ultimate Paella rice, being able to absorb triple its volume in liquid, however it can be hard to find.  In my Paella I used Calasparra rice, which can hold twice its volume in liquid.  If you use Bomba rice, you will need to adjust the amount of stock used.  If you have difficulty finding the correct Spanish rice Arborio will do, however not preferable.  The final and equally as important factor to consider when making a Paella is even heat to the entire pan.  As my household did not have large enough gas burners I decided to use a Webber Barbeque with charcoal, you could use a gas barbeque/grill as long as the pan fits well and heat is evenly dispersed.  Regarding the below recipe, feel free to mix and match seafood used, just remember to add them according to cooking times as you don’t want them over done.  OK, enough with the background info, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 39 cm / 15 inch Paella pan (should serve 5 people)
  • 2 raw chorizo sausages cut into chunks (if you can’t find raw chorizo, cooked works)
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 heaped tsp saffron (grind with a pinch of salt and mix with a bit of stock to get the colours and flavours flowing)
  • 2 cups Calasparra rice
  • 4 cups fish / chicken stock (use a good stock here, homemade is preferable, however a good store bought stock works well too)
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper / capsicum sliced
  • 1 small brown onion diced
  • 3 medium tomatoes diced
  • 250 g mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
  • 500 g raw prawns / shrimp shelled and de-veined
  • 300 g white, firm fleshed fish
  • 250 g clams
  • 2 lemons, wedged
  • Parsley, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

To start, heat the Paella pan over high heat with a good slug of olive oil and brown the chorizo, about 3 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium and add onion, garlic and sweat until opaque, approximately 5 minutes.  Add smoked paprika, bell pepper, tomato, a pinch of salt and pepper and sautè until most of the tomato moisture has evaporated, 5 minutes, this mixture is called your Sofrito.  Add the rice to the Sofrito and stir until well coated and glistening, cook for a couple of minutes.  Pour in stock and saffron blend and stir for one minute.  Distribute the rice, so that there is an even layer over the entire pan using a spoon or shaking the pan, you will not be stirring the Paella again.  Bring the Paella to a boil and then simmer over medium heat until the rice begins to appear through the stock.

IMGP3679When the rice has appeared through the stock, add the firm white fish and continue to cook. The entire cooking time for the rice should be around 20 minutes, you want the rice tender and all the stock absorbed. If the stock has been absorbed and the rice is still not cooked add more stock.  With approximately 5 minutes left of cooking time add your shrimp/prawns. With around 3 minutes remaining add the mussels and clams, cover until they have opened, around 3 minutes.  At this point your rice should have absorbed all of the stock and be tender.  With a spatula, carefully lift some of the rice, the ultimate goal for the Paella is to have a crisp, caramelised, brown layer on the bottom of the rice called socarrat. If this carmelised layer has not formed yet, crank up the heat for a couple of minutes until you get the crisped rice.

IMGP3684Once cooked and with the socarrat layer, remove from the heat and cover with a tea-towel for 5 minutes.  Garnish with lemon wedges, parsley and serve in the middle of the table.  Traditionally everyone eats out of the same dish, each eating their section, however serving to individual plates works well too.

-alex

IMGP3685Seafood Paella