I am feeling quite pleased with myself as I’ve just read that paella is one of the top most difficult dishes to make at home.
First, you think you need a special pan. I actually used to have a paella pan long ago – I might have made pancakes in it once or twice. Not once paella. So now I've made it in the biggest frying pan I’ve got, all of 25cm, and it goes swimmingly – tools maketh not the master, clearly. True, it’s not a party dish amount unless there’s four of you and really not very hungry.
Second, what to throw into it? There are tonnes of conflicting recipes and experts on the valenciana admonishing you for putting in chorizo, peeled seafood and for stirring. Pure form paella valenciana has rabbit or chicken in it OR the seafood mix – plus green beans, white beans, no onions. So guess what – the one below isn’t pure form.
Third, how the hell do you get the toasted crunchy rice at the bottom called socarrat? It’s without question the best bit and I’d be inclined to agree with the critics that without it, it’s ‘rice with things’, not paella (see the comments to Jamie’s effort). How do you? Easily – don’t stir. Or even DON’T STIR which I make explicitly clear in the recipe.
And the last but not least difficult: say it properly. pah/EH/yah. You might get away with pie-yey-ah but never, ever pie-ella or you’ll be laughed all the way out of Barcelona.
- For 3-4 people (25cm/10in.pan)
- 600ml (2/3 quart) chicken stock from cube or fresh
- a few strands of saffron
- 1 chicken breast and 1 thigh, skin on, bone out (or just thighs or breasts)
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
- 1 heaped tsp tomato purée
- 1 red pepper, cored and roughly chopped
- 1 tsp smoked hot paprika
- 70g (2 ½ oz.) sliced chorizo
- 200g (1 cup) paella rice (Bomba or Calasparra)
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 8-12 raw king prawns, shelled, shell-on or a mix
- ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
Heat up the stock or dissolve the cube in boiling water; add the saffron and stir.
Chop each chicken thigh and breast into 4 or 5 pieces and season them with salt and pepper. Heat up the oil in the largest pan you have (25cm will be good) and brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Push them to the sides and add the onion and garlic into the middle of the pan. Fry it hard for a couple of minutes, then stir in the tomato puree, keeping it away from the chicken. Add the red pepper; fry it together with the onion and garlic for a minute.
Turn down the heat a little and mix the chicken pieces in. Sprinkle over the smoked paprika and add the chorizo pieces.
Pour the stock into the pan, all at once and turn up the heat. Let it bubble vigorously for two-three minutes. Sprinkle the rice evenly over the surface of the stock – DO NOT STIR from now on. Cook it for 10 minutes until the rice appears through the liquid. Gently displace any dry grains sticking to the chicken but DO NOT STIR. If it looks too dry too soon, add the white wine.
Sprinkle the peas over the surface and arrange the prawns on top. Turn the heat down and simmer the paella for 10 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the liquid; you may cover the pan at this stage so the prawns cook through. If you don’t have a lid to fit the pan, cover it with a large baking sheet.
After the 10 minutes turn the heat right up for 1 minute until you can hear the rice start to pop and crackle. Keep it on for 30 seconds and take the pan off the heat. Cover it with a clean dry tea towel to absorb the steam, keep it like that for 10 minutes and serve in the pan placed in the middle of the table.
If you’re lucky, the mixture has stuck to the bottom of the pan; crispy and almost-burnt. This is socarrat, a characteristic of good paella. Well done – the socarrat is truly scrumptious.