What is Paella? Paella is a traditional Spanish cuisine originating from Valencia and is specially served on Sundays and holidays (though nowadays any day is a good day to have a Paella). It resembles a rissotto, using medium short-grained rice. A traditional Paella is made in a broad, shallow dish with sloping sides called a paella or paellera in some regions of Spain. The pan is usually around 13" in diameter. An important part of the flavor comes from the addition of saffron and the sofrito, or the combination of tomatoes, and garlic. The traditional way of cooking a Paella is to sautee the vegetables, meat or seafood in olive oil in different stages. Next, water is added, followed by rice. The mixture of meat, vegetables, and rice is stirred and then simmered slowly for approximately twenty minutes on low heat before the heat is raised to high to make the soccarat, the deliciously toasted bottom which is a delicacy in Valencian cuisine. After the soccarat has formed, the Paella is removed from the heat, allowed to cool slightly, and served.
However my version of Paella is prepared differently as I cooked the rice first and then added the seafood directly on top of the rice towards the end part of cooking time. I thought this was much simplier and didn't require too many messy dishes. The Paella came out beautifully done especially as I had used the freshiest of seafood. This is great entertaining dish and you can wow your guest by presenting the whole dish in it's pan.
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
A few thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
1 tsp of Spanish paprika (sweet or smokey, your choice)
2 cups of dry white wine
A pinch of saffron threads (about 15 threads or so)
2 cups arborio or other medium short grained, rounded rice (I used Australian medium short grain as arborio was way too expensive)
3 to 4 cups chicken broth (I used canned chicken broth but you could also use fish or vegetable broth)
1 medium sized squid, cleaned and cut into rings (the tentacles can also be used)
400g clams, soaked in water to remove the grit
About 10 mussels, soaked to remove grit, beard removed
500g medium sized prawns (trimmed, but leave the shell and head)
1 chiroza sausage sliced diagonally
1 can of chopped tomatoes (about 350g can)
1/2 cup frozen peas (defrosted)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
1) Add about 3 Tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Once heated add the onion and fry for about 3 minutes. Then add the garlic and fry until lightly brown. After that toss in the thyme and bay leaves.
2) Give it all a good stir and then add in the paprika, some sea salt and black pepper. Toss in the chiroza sausage to brown for about a minute before adding in the whole can of chopped tomatoes. Stir the mixture and let it reduce to about half.
3) Add in all the white wine and saffron. Let the sauce simmer for another 1 - 2 minutes, reducing slightly.
4) Now add in all the rice and give it a good stir. Let it come to a simmer and then add in half of the broth. Season with salt and more pepper (to taste). DO NOT STIR THE MIXTURE ANY MORE. THE WHOLE ESSENCE OF PAELLA IS TO HAVE A CRUST DEVELOP AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAN.
5) Continue to cook the rice for about 10 minutes, letting the rice absorb the broth and wine. When the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, slowly add the remaining broth a bit at a time, letting the rice absorb more the broth. This should take about 5 minutes or so.
6) By this time, the rice should be almost cooked (taste to test). Now arrange the clams, mussells, prawns and squid on top of the rice. Let it cook until done. (I lightly covered the pan with a piece of foil to let the seafood cook through) Finally scatter the peas on top of the rice and let it soften.
7) Once cooked, remove the Paella from the stove and let stand for about 5 minutes. Dish out onto individual plates and serve with lemon wedges and freshly ground black pepper for taste.