Paella is a combination of meats from land, sea and air, simmered to perfection with saffron-infused rice in the pan, Spain’s culinary gift to 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 – I suppose that’s why Paella is so popular in Japanese family restaurants, and it is cooked in a regular frying pan.
- Prawns (6 large)
- Chicken Legs with Thigh (2)
- Black Mussels (8)
- Smoked Pancetta (80g)
- Spicy Chorizo Sausage (80g)
- Onion (1)
- Tomatoes (2)
- Raw Japanese Rice (1 cup)
- Chicken Stock Cube (1)
- Lemon (1)
- 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 3/4 of 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 and roughly mince enough garlic to get 1T of raw minced garlic. Also dice 2 tomatoes into 1cm pieces.
- Soak and agitate the mussels in some cold water. Strain, then clean and de-beard the mussels. You can also use mussels that were pre-cooked in brine and frozen.
- Dice the Pancetta into small bits and slice the Chorizo. Pan fry them together in the pan with 2T of oil on low heat until the fat has been rendered from the meat.
- Place half the Chorizo pieces into the stock, and reserve the pancetta, but leave the oil andthe rest of the Chorizo in the pan. Turn up the heat and when the oil is really hot stir fry the chicken and prawns in the pan till you notice the chicken pieces begin to shrink.
- Remove the meat and keep aside in a bowl, again leaving the oil in the pan. Pan fry the onion pieces on low heat until they begin to brown. Pour the drippings from the chicken back into the pan, add the pancetta back together with one cup of Japanese rice and stir fry for a minute to coat the rice grains.
- 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 1/4 of a lemon and the mussels. Mix well, then leave the rice to settle. Add enough additional hot water to bring the water level to 2/3 to the top and bring to a low simmer.
- You’ll need to keep the pan on a low simmer uncovered for about half an hour for the rice to be done. 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, drizzle on 3T of olive oil and mix it into the rice. Turn up the heat, arrange the chorizo, 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 what makes Japanese rice ideal for the job.
- 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 in steps 3, 6 and 11. This adds tons of rich seafood flavour.
- The only time you should disturb the rice while it’s cooking is in step 11, when it is almost done. These rice grains are delicate once you start boiling them and you don’t want to break them; do not keep stirring like you are cooking a risotto.
- You will notice I boiled some of 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.
- If you want to go the extra mile, bake the chicken and prawns instead of doing a pan fry, timing it such that they are ready at the same time as the rice. Spoon the drippings over the cooked paella and then arrange the meat on top as the final step.