Paella is a combination of meats from land, sea and air, simmered to perfection with saffron-infused rice in the pan, a culinary gift from the Valencia region of Spain to the rest of the world. Not that many people cook Paella because they believe it requires a special variety of rice from Spain and a special Paella pan. It does not, everybody can cook a reasonably authentic Spanish Paella even if they are not from Spain. My recipe uses Japanese Rice, the ideal substitute rice for Paella.
- Prawns (6 large)
- Chicken Legs with Thigh (2)
- Black Mussels (8)
- Smoked Pancetta (80g)
- Spicy Chorizo Sausage (80g)
- Onion (1)
- Tomatoes (1)
- Raw Japanese Rice (1 cup)
- Chicken Stock Cube (0.5)
- Lemon (2 wedges)
- Saffron Threads
Cooking paella is a bit more tricky than other rice dishes and the proportions need to be just right. For this recipe you’ll need a large frying pan that is 11 inches in diameter (top) and 2 inches deep. It can be a slightly bigger but definitely no smaller.
- Debone the chicken legs and cut the meat into bite sized chunks. Cut the heads of your prawns just behind the carapace and snip off all whiskers. Shell and then devein the prawn bodies and slice lengthwise down the middle to halve each prawn.
- Boil 2 cups of water in a pot with 1/2 a chicken stock cube. Add the chicken bones and prawn heads into the boiling stock pot and keep the stock simmering on a low flame.
- In the meanwhile marinate the chicken and prawn meat in a mixture of 1T oil, 1t oregano, 1t chopped parsley, 1t paprika and 0.5t of salt.
- Julienne the onion into small bits, roughly mince enough garlic to get 1T of raw minced garlic and dice 1 tomato. Furthermore cut the Chorizo into thin slices and the pancetta into small pieces.
- Soak and agitate the mussels in some cold water. Strain, then clean and de-beard the mussels.
- Drizzle some oil onto your frying pan and turn up the heat. When the pan is really hot stir fry the chicken in the pan till they are browned on all surfaces. Place the chicken in a casserole dish.
- In the same pan, stir fry the pancetta and chorizo on low heat until the fat has been rendered from the meat. Place the Chorizo pieces into the simmering stock pot.
- Next add the onion to the pan. Stir fry on low heat until they begin to brown. Then add one cup of Japanese rice and stir fry for a minute to coat the rice grains. You may stop at this stage until you are almost ready to serve the paella.
- Pour the stock through a strainer into the pan. Add the minced garlic, diced tomatoes together with 1t paprika, 1t oregano, 1t of saffron threads and 0.5t sugar. Add the juice from 2 lemon wedges and the mussels. Top off with enough hot water to bring the water level halfway to the top and bring to a simmer. You’ll need to keep the pan on a low simmer uncovered for about half an hour for the rice to be done.
- After 20 minutes arrange the raw prawns in the casserole with the chicken and place in a preheated oven. Grill till the prawns twirl up. Remove from the oven and drizzle the drippings onto the rice. Mix the rice gently, then leave the rice to settle. Return the casserole to the oven (turned off) to keep your meat warm.
- When the pan begins to dry, check the rice for texture and decide if you need to add additional hot water – drizzle only a little each time. Too much water will result in mush. Once you are satisfied that the rice is properly fluffed up and at its maximum size, turn up the heat, arrange the chicken and shrimp over the top and let the paella dry up almost completely.
- When the ‘socarrat’ or crust has formed at the bottom of the pan, serve your paella in the pan itself.
- The ideal rice for Paella is a short-grained Spanish variety like Bomba, but those are not easy to buy outside of Europe. Many tend to use Italian Arborio as a substitute because it also happens to be short grained but that is entirely the wrong type of rice to use. Rice meant for risotto cannot absorb too much water without becoming mushy because of its high amylopectin content which is why risotto is eaten wet and al dente. Paella must be cooked until it is dry outside but fully hydrated inside which is what makes Japanese rice ideal in this case.
- A personal secret ingredient when I cook my paella is cod liver oil. I usually add some diced smoked cod liver and use some of the oil that comes in the tin instead of vegetable oil. This adds tons of rich seafood flavour.
- You can also use mussels that were pre-cooked in brine and frozen but pour away the brine. It is very easy for Paella to get overly salty. Sometimes I use clams instead of mussels.
- Try not to disturb the rice except in step 10. These rice grains are delicate and you don’t want to break them; you do not to keep stirring like you are cooking a risotto.
- You will notice I boiled the Chorizo in the stock. In my opinion this is the best way to extract its flavour to the rice. Do not add the boiled Chorizo back to the rice, it will be mushy.