Currently in the land of senors and senoritas for work, but in a country like Spain its tough to stick to just work, a little play always follows! What is really great is that while work for me is all about food, even leisure and unwinding leads me to food! This is why I love Spain, there is never a dearth of the flavours, recipes and ingredients in this land. Everytime I visit, I take back home a new food experience! Amidst this plethora of food, there is one dish which shines bright like the pole star. This dish is the mighty Paella! Paella is to Spain what Biryani is to India, only more important. Different versions of this wholesome flavourful rice dish are created and recreated across the country. I have been fortunate to taste authentic Paella as well as some contemporary versions of this dish on this trip. Because I am on a work trip, writing at leisure is not one of the luxuries I have. So, I am quickly going to share with you 2 recipes for Paella.
One is a classic seafood Paella, which is how they make it in Spain. Another one is not really a Paella but a vegetarian spaghetti, that is cooked the Paella way and does live up to the taste of one. Now let me tell you a couple of things about Paella so when you try these recipes they turn out perfect.
Paella is a rice based dish. It is cooked a lot like a risotto. It uses short grain variety of rice. Paella is authentically made with Valencian Rice, which comes from a place called Valenciaon the East Coast of Spain. The idea is for the rice to absorb all the flavours of the stock and other ingredients in your Paella pan. Arborio rice is the closest easily available option to make delicious Paella.
Traditionally, the meats used in Paella would include snails, chicken, duck and/or rabbit meat. But don’t worry you can make an equally delicious Paella using other more easily available ingredients – it is a freestyle dish! Use sausages, chorizo, chicken, fish, clams, prawns, squid or just vegetables if that’s what suits your liking.
While making Paella keep in mind you cover and cook it on low heat. This ensures a crispy crust at the bottom of pan which is called socarrat. Perfect Paella should have a perfect crunchy base. These are the bits that everyone scrambles for in Paella.
A Paella pan is called a paellera. If you don’t own one, any 3-4 cm deep, medium-weight non-stick frying pan should do just perfect.
Two little ingredients that contribute a lot to the flavours of a Paella are – olive oil and saffron. So, make sure you skip out or compromise on these. Also, make sure the heat is evenly distributed – induction cooktops work great.
CLASSIC SEAFOOD PAELLA
200 gms prawns, shelled with tails and head intact and deveined
100 gms clams
3-4 small fish
1½ cups rice, half cooked
3-4 tbsps olive oil
12 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into long strips
1 yellow pepper, cut into long strips
Crushed black peppercorns to taste
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
4 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup fish stock
A few strands of saffron, dissolved in 2 tbsps milk
1 tbsp red chilli flakes
3-4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
10-12 fresh basil leaves
1 cup frozen green peas, soaked
Heat olive oil in a pan. Add garlic and sauté. Add onions and sauté till translucent. Add red and yellow bell pepper and sauté.
Add crushed black peppercorns and mix.
Add prawns, clams, small fish and sauté. Cover and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add salt, sugar and tomatoes and mix well. Add rice and mix well. Add fish stock, saffron dissolved in milk and chilli flakes and mix well.
Add 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil. Chop basil leaves and add to the Paella pan.
Add green peas and mix well. Cover and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Sprinkle some extra virgin olive oil.
Transfer in a serving plate. Sprinkle some more extra virgin olive oil and serve hot.
SPAGHETTI VEGETABLE PAELLA
200 gms brown spaghetti
1 large potato
¼ large red capsicum
¼ large yellow capsicum
¼ large green capsicum
¼ cup green peas
3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
1 tbsp chopped garlic
Salt to taste
2 cups vegetable stock
2 medium tomatoes
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chilli powder
Few strands of saffron
Juice of ½ lemon
Heat extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick pan. Halve onion, slice horizontally thickly and add to the pan and sauté. Quarter and slice potato and add.
Chop red, yellow and green capsicums.
Add garlic to the pan and mix. Add capsicums, mix and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add green peas and salt and mix.
Break spaghetti into smaller pieces and add to the pan and mix well. Add vegetable stock and mix well.
Slice tomatoes. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and a few strands of saffron and mix well.
Add tomatoes but do not mix. Cover and cook.
Cut lemon into thin wedges and remove the seeds and centre pith.
Add juice of ½ lemon and mix, cover and cook till the vegetables and spaghetti are done.
Transfer into a serving dish, garnish with lemon wedges and serve hot.
Hope you guys try these recipes, leave a comment below as its always great to hear from you guys.
Given to a foodie that I am, it makes most sense to end with a Spanish phrase “barrigallena, corazon content” which literally means “full stomach happy heart.”
Adios Amigos! Till I write again.