Paella is perhaps the best known, and most representative, Spanish dish, although two of its main ingredients, rice and saffron, were originally introduced to Spain by the Moors, many years ago. The name ‘paella’ is taken from the vessel, in which the food is cooked: a flat, round pan with two handles called a paella or paellera. The size of the pan used depends upon the number of participants at the meal, who, traditionally, eat directly from the pan.
6 cups fish stock Pinch saffron threads (see Notes)
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste 6 medium-sized green prawns, left whole
1 green blue swimmer crab, cleaned, cut into 6, claws cracked
1 brown onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely diced
½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
300g canned Italian tomatoes
2¼ cups bomba rice (or other short grain Spanish rice such as calasparra)
2 teaspoons salt flakes
1 cup fresh peas (see Notes)
4 preserved piquillo peppers, cut into strips
9 large green prawns, peeled and diced
6 blue mussels, scrubbed and debearded
200g loligo squid, cleaned and cut into strips
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Heat Fish Stock in a saucepan until almost boiling, remove from heat, add saffron threads and cover to keep warm.
Heat some olive oil in a paella pan or large frying pan and fry whole prawns and crab over medium heat until they just change colour. Remove and set aside.
Add extra olive oil to pan. Stir in onion, then garlic, then paprika and cook, without colouring, until onion is soft.
Add tomatoes, increase heat and cook for a further 5 minutes until mixture has reduced a little and is pulpy.
Add rice and salt, mix well to coat the rice and cook for 1 minute.
Stir in almost all of the stock (with saffron).
Bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes, then reduce to medium-high heat and cook for about 10 minutes until most of the stock has been absorbed. If the flame (or element) doesn’t reach the edges of the base of the pan, carefully move the pan around during cooking to ensure the rice cooks evenly.
Give the pan a firm shake to even out the rice (do not stir, just shake); add remaining stock.
Arrange peas, peppers, mussels, vongole, diced prawns and crab on the top of the paella, gently pushing seafood into the rice to assist cooking.
Cook for a further 5 minutes or so until shells open and prawns just change colour.
Add the squid and cooked whole prawns and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat, cover with a clean tea towel and allow paella to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving (the Spanish call this ‘reposar’).
Garnish with lemon wedges.
Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice, but a little goes a long way. There are fake and poor quality products on the market, so buy threads (rather than powder, which can easily be adulterated) from a reputable source. We use Iranian saffron which is available in 1g packets at saffrononly.com.au.
The most important rule in making paella is not to stir the rice once the stock has been added, this allows the important socorat (crust) to form on the bottom. Each additional ingredient should be added to the rice and stock according to the time it will take to cook.
Frozen peas can be used if fresh are unavailable.