There was a huge paella cooked by myself, moussaka, chilli con carne, potato dauphinoise and stuffed jacket potatoes cooked by Mum and vegetarian chilli and salads donated by our good friend Gill. Our guests all brought along other scrummy goodies, too.
The bar was stocked, full to the brim, by friends and the alcohol flowed freely! Shirley, the birthday girl, was well and truly surprised, especially when she was presented with her cake in the form of a Scrabble board, made by Mum!
Paella is currently an internationally-known rice dish from Spain. It originated in the fields of a region called Valencia in eastern Spain. Today paella is made in every region of Spain, using just about any kind of ingredient that goes well with rice. There are as many versions of paella as there are cooks. It may contain chicken, pork, shellfish, fish, eel, squid, beans, peas, artichokes or peppers. Saffron, the spice that also turns the rice a wonderful golden color is an essential part of the dish.
Origins of paella
The stories of servants creating dishes from the King’s left-overs are romantic, but we know for certain that it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that modern paella was created in an area around Albufera (a bay south of Valencia). At lunch time, workers in the fields would make the rice dish in a flat pan over a fire. They mixed in whatever they could find - such as snails and vegetables. For special occasions, rabbit and later chicken were added.
The Basics of Paella
To prepare paella, there are three basic rules to follow.
- Cook Over a Fire - Paella is best prepared over an open fire, charcoal BBQ or gas paella burner. Use a round kettle-style BBQ, such as a Weber brand. The reason for this is so that the heat is evenly distributed and because the heat should gradually decrease as you are cooking it. First, the fire must be very hot to brown the meat, then it should be lower to simmer the rice.
If you prepare paella often, you may want to invest in a Paella Burner & Adjustable Tripod Stand, designed specifically for cooking paella outside. They usually come with two ring burners and allow adjusting each ring separately. These burners connect to a propane tank via a hose and regulator.
- Use a Paella Pan - A traditional paella pan is a necessity. The pan is sometimes called a paellera, although there is some disagreement among Spaniards about the use of this word. It is a large, flat, open round steel pan with handles.
- Use Medium-Grain Rice – For best results, use a medium-grain rice rather than a long grain rice. The medium-grain rice absorbs a lot of liquid, which makes it particularly suitable for paella.
How to Season a Paella Pan
Before cooking in a paella pan, be sure to season the pan. Although there are different ways to do this, the simplest method is to first wash the pan with warm water and soap and dry with a soft cloth immediately. While the pan is still warm, using a soft cloth or paper towel, rub olive oil over the entire inside of the pan. If the pan is not warm after washing, place it in the oven on warm for a few minutes, then rub the oil on it.
It is very important to thoroughly clean the pan immediately after each use. Then, before storing it, rub it with olive oil to prevent it from rusting.
If you ever pull out your pan and it has begun to rust, don’t panic and run out to buy a new one! Simple use a soapy steel wool pad to gently wash it and rub off the rust. Then, rub with olive oil to season it again.
Click on the banner to purchase all your paella ingredients and untensil (Europe and USA)
NB this is just one variation! I don't use lobster or crab (I use chicken and mixed fish)
Paella a la Valenciana
The world famous rice dish! Perfect for any gathering.
6 cups of very strong chicken broth (bouillon)
1/2 tsp of saffron
1/4 tsp of smoked Spanish paprika (Pimentón de la Vera)
1 small onion, peeled
2 small chickens, about 2-1/2 lbs each
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 lb of cooking chorizo, in 1/4 inch slices
1/4 lb piece jamón serrano ham, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
4 tbsp chopped garlic
2 roasted piquillo peppers
1 lb small or medium shrimp, shelled
2 (Optional) Live lobsters, boiled, split and divided into tail sections and claws(discard or keep the head and small claws); or
4 (Optional) Lobster tails, split lengthwise;
8 (Optional) King crab claws; or
8 jumbo shrimp, in their shells, preferably heads on
3 cups Bomba or Calasparra rice or other short grain Spanish rice
5 tbsp chopped parsley
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 lb fresh or frozen peas
18 clams and/or mussels, scrubbed
Lemon wedges for garnish
Parsley for garnish
Heat the broth with the saffron, pimentón and the whole onion. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove the onion and measure the broth -- you need exactly 5-1/2 cups.
Cut the chickens into small serving pieces -- the whole breast in 4 parts, each thigh into 2 parts, the bony tip of the leg chopped off, the wing tip discarded, and the rest of the wing separated into 2 parts. Dry the pieces well and sprinkle with salt.
In a metal Paella pan, with about a 15 inch base, heat the oil. Add the chicken pieces and fry over high heat until golden. Remove to a warm platter. Add the chorizo, and jamón to the pan and stir fry about 10 minutes. Add the chopped onion, scallions, garlic, and pimentos and saute until the onion is wilted. Add the shrimp and the lobster and saute about 3 minutes more, or until the shrimp and lobster barely turn pink (the lobster will cook more in the oven.) Remove the shrimp and lobster to the platter with the chicken. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat it well with the oil. Sprinkle in the 5 tablespoons of chopped parsley and the crumbled bay leaves. (You can make in advance up to this point.)
Stir in the chicken broth, boiling hot, the wine, rice, and peas. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat about 10 minutes. Bury the shrimp and the chicken in the rice. Add the clams and the mussels, pushing them into the rice, with the edge that will open facing up. Decorate the paella with the lobster pieces, then bake at 325 F, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let sit on top of the stove, lightly covered with foil, for about 10 minutes. To serve, decorate with lemon wedges and chopped parsley.
Lobster can be a little expensive, so replace it with a comparable amount of shrimp if you wish!