I need to start this quick blog with an apology! Some time ago (last year), the lovely people at Steenbergs sent me a sample box which included a small jar of Smokey Paella Blend. Partly due to two separate visits to hospital I had completely forgotten about it (the jar is small at 10g of ingredients) and discovered it recently, so here is my experience of making NOT the national dish of Spain, but THE regional dish of Valencia!
So Paella might seem a simple dish to prepare, but it can be done very badly or really well. My usual trip to the internet and trawling the bookshelf revealed some interesting facts, the main one being our view that Paella is the national dish of Spain, in fact this is not true and actually the tasty mix of rice, protein and herbs and spices comes from the Eastern region of Spain, the Albufera Lagoon (not the holiday location in Portugal)!
So, for 2 – 4 people I used the following Ingredients:
- 2 Chicken Breasts (as good as you can get, chopped into 1 1/2 ” ‘chunks’)
- 20 (approx.) Raw King Prawns (shells removed)
- 1/2 Large Onion (finely Chopped)
- 1 Red Pepper (pith and seeds removed and chopped roughly)
- 6″ Chorizo (sliced about £1 coin width)
- A good glug of Olive Oil
- 1 Clove Garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 Glass Wine
- Zest of 1/2 Lemon
- 2 Tomatoes (Sliced in Half)
- 1 Tsp Tomato Puree
- Salt to taste
- 3 Cups Rice ( I only had Carnaroli in the cupboard)
- 6 Cups Chicken Stock (I used a Knorr Stock Pot which was to hand)
- 2 Tsp Steenbergs Smokey Paella Spice Blend
I am not suggesting my version is original by the way, I used what I had to hand in the cupboard, and took guidance from 5 or 6 pages on the Internet, as well as a couple of books I had that showed different versions of Paella.
So the 1st stage (for me), was to get some Olive Oil into a pan and start to fry the Chorizo. When you do this, the spices that flavour the Chorizo leach out into the Oil which turns a delicious Red colour. This takes a few minutes, you want the Chorizo a bit crispy to add some texture to the dish.
Now add the chopped Pepper and fry for a couple of minutes then the Onion. You can see the Red Chorizo flavour doing its stuff on the Onions above. You want to soften things so allow about 5 – 8 minutes for this stage on a medium heat. The next few stages (in my humble opinion), are where you need to take a lot of care with the timing.
For me, the knack with this dish is to make sure each element is cooked to its best, but nothing is overcooked, we have Chicken, Prawns and Rice which all cook for different times to get right and so some thought needs to go into what we do and when.
The Rice I was using, Carnaroli is an Italian Risotto Rice so if you want to be traditional then Bomba Rice should be used, but the critical factor in my case was the 18 minutes it takes to cook which needs to be factored in with the Chicken and Prawns.
So, in goes the 2 Tsp of Paella mix and the Lemon Zest, spices need cooking out a bit 1st to extract oils and flavours. Next, take your Tomato halves and grate them into the pan, this leaves the skin behind which is not digestible, then the Tomato Puree and give it a good mix.
Turn the heat up and add the wine, you want to reduce and evaporate the alcohol. Now add the Chicken with the heat still up high and cook for a couple of minutes until the outside is browned. The bulk of the cooking will take place when we add the Rice and Stock so it’s just colour and flavour we are adding at this time.
Now add the Rice, stir a bit, then add the Chicken Stock and mix again. Check for seasoning at this point, mine needed some more salt, taste again and check it’s right. DON’T mix anymore from now on. We want to be as original as possible, apparently the finished dish should have ‘holes’ in the surface and a crispy base (I didn’t manage this and suspect I could have used a higher heat), stirring will prevent this from happening and you could end up with mushy Rice.
Finally, add the prawns and push them down slightly so they are as covered as much as possible, the heat needs to be reduced to a medium simmer at this point so the Rice can ‘sponge’ up the stock and other flavours, if you remember the Rice only needed 18 minutes to cook so at this point, I needed another 14 minutes for the dish to be ready.
When the 14 minutes is up turn off the heat, cover the dish with tea towels and leave for another 5 minutes and get your plates etc. ready. You can see the final results above, I forgot to take a ‘piccy’ of the plated results as it was just too tasty to leave alone!!
You can see the Rice is cooked, but not ‘claggy’, the Chicken was soft and just cooked, the Prawns were amazing, again soft and not rubbery, which happens if you take them too far in the cooking process.
From start to finish this Paella took about 45 minutes, including the chopping, cooking and resting. The results were delicious, there was two much for the two of us in reality, this amount could feed 4.
The Steenbergs Smokey Paella Spice mix did its stuff, I added some Garlic as we both like Garlic, and I though the Lemon Zest would complement the Prawns in a subtle way.
When my little jar is finished, I will certainly be adding it to the next order, it’s a great mix of 2 different Paprikas, Garlic, Onion, Rosemary, Saffron and Black Pepper and comes highly recommended.
…………………………….Until next time……………..L8ers…………….