The good thing about a paella is you can make it as extravagant or as basic as you like. If I’m going all out I use chicken, prawns and chorizo, but quite often I only use two out of the three. As for vegetables, if I haven’t been shopping I just use peas and whatever else I have in the freezer. And normal tomatoes work perfectly well if you don’t want to especially buy cherry tomatoes…see it’s all very flexible.
There is something so beautiful about the colours and flavours of a paella and I love the fact it’s a one-pot dish. The nature of putting a paella pan (or frying pan) in the middle of a table and uncovering it so your guests can all tuck in means it’s also the perfect social dish for a dinner party. Please don’t let the number of ingredients scare you, you’ll have most of them at home anyway, and as for the herbs and spices, if you don’t have them then go get them! They make the dish really special and they will soon become an essential part of your store cupboard.
My paella recipe has developed a little bit every time I’ve made it so now it works each and every time. I had the validation I needed when I served it to N’s brother, T, when he came over for dinner recently. We all sat down to eat at the same time. N and I were on our third mouthful when T’s fork hit the plate and he asked “is there any more left?” It was then I knew I had finally got my paella recipe right.
Next time on adventures of an accidental cook…what’s in your spice cupboard? Log in soon to find out how to build up an essential collection of herbs and spices.
(Serves 2 | Total prep and cooking time approximately 1 hour – 1 hour 15 mins)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion (red or white) – diced
2 garlic cloves – finely chopped or crushed
140g raw prawns
1 skinless and boneless chicken breast - cut into small pieces
100g cooked or uncooked chorizo - sliced finely
1 green pepper – deseeded and sliced
8 cherry tomatoes – halved
80 - 100g runner beans – chopped (can be substituted with peas)
130g paella rice (dry - no need to soak or wash)
1 stock cube dissolved in 1 pint of boiling water (preferably fish, but chicken or vegetable will work too)
Pinch of saffron threads soaked in 1 tablespoon of hot water
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ pinch of turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh parsley – chopped
1 teaspoon tarragon – fresh or dried
½ lemon – cut into wedges
Salt and pepper to taste
· Heat the olive oil in a large shallow non-stick frying pan or paella pan on a medium heat
· Dissolve the stock cube in water and soak the saffron threads
· Fry the raw prawns in the oil until they turn pink – using a slotted spoon transfer to a bowl and set aside
· In the remaining oil fry the chicken and the uncooked chorizo for about 5 minutes or until golden
· Add the onions to the same pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened
· Add the garlic, paprika, turmeric, saffron and its soaking liquid. Cook for about a minute stirring constantly
· Add the sliced green pepper, tomato halves and beans and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly
· Add the dry rice, parsley and tarragon and stir for about a minute until the rice is coated. You should not stir at all after this as the rice will break
· Pour in 100ml of the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until most the liquid has evaporated. Shake the pan a couple of times during this time
· You can season with salt and pepper at this stage. I don’t tend to add salt as I find there is enough in the stock and the chorizo
· Keep adding 100ml of water at a time and shaking the pan until the rice grains are plump and almost cooked. Add the cooked prawns you had set aside earlier and shake. If you are using already cooked prawns they should be added at this stage. Cook for a further 2 minutes. If you run out of stock and the rice is not quite cooked you can just add boiling water. Note – when paella rice is cooked it still tends to have a bit of a bite to it.
· When all the liquid has absorbed and the rice is cooked remove from the heat immediately to prevent burning. Place the lemon wedges on top and cover with foil or a clean tea towel and leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving.