I know I mentioned in a previous post that we went to Spain for a holiday last year. We spent a few nights in Barcelona, a few nights in Valencia & a few nights in Madrid. I also mentioned that a colleague of mine who had previously lived in Barca had given me a list of places to eat and one of those places was the restaurant 7 Portes. We met my brother & his girlfriend beforehand and queued up at the ancient restaurant which is famous for it’s paella. It was one of those restaurants where the waiters are all oldish men and wear white jackets. While there were many of tourists, it was comforting to see the hoards locals enjoying their meals also. We all ordered the same thing - house paella - and instead of cooking four individual dishes, they brought out one massive dish & served us from that. It was fabulous; bursting with flavour and the ambiance of the restaurant made it all the better.
Tommi Myers’ new show on Channel 4, A Cooks Tour of Spain, really whetted my appetite for Spanish food again so I decided to try out paella for myself yesterday. I perused a few different recipes and started from there. The recipes I had seen were all cooked on the hob in the pan but the 7 Portes paella had been cooked in the oven so there were lovely crispy bits of rice along the sides of the pan. I took some advice from Bill Granger’s paella about not stirring the rice, shaking it instead, and also from Anthony Worrall Thompson on the ingredients.
The beauty about paella is that really, anything goes, well, within reason but you could go for vegetarian, seafood, meat or a mixture. I went for a mixture. Sadliers do smoked chicken breasts which I thought would work a treat and I also had some left-over chorizo in the fridge and picked up some squid, prawns, pancetta and veggies to go into the pot too. Now, the preparation was a tad tedious as there was an awful amount of chopping to be done, but I took plenty of time doing that earlier and didn’t start cooking until about half an hour before my guests were due to arrive. The cleaning of the squid was a bit grizzly but I thought I’d better get my hands dirty as everything presented in Ballymaloe will be in it’s raw state; fish will be gutted, pheasant plucked, rabbit skinned and not a chicken fillet in sight. I got a bit squeamish when the tentacles stuck to my fingers but dinner is a serious matter and one must soldier on whatever the cost.
Everything was fried in stages and once the stock was poured on, the chicken, prawns, peas & calamari were added to the pan and everything transferred to the oven. As the prawns were in their shell, they turned a beautiful colour and the calamari was chewy with roasted bits but in a nice way. There was crispy rice on the sides which was also a treat to be scraped onto the plates when returning for seconds. The pan was plonked in the middle of the table with a salad and between the four of us, demolished the lot. I had made Portuguese custard tartlets for dessert which also went down well and I have to say, I was very proud of my paella and will definitely be making it again.
What You Need
About 150g pancetta diced
About 300g chorizo
2 smoked chicken breasts cut into thick slices (or 4 thighs)
1 spanish onion chopped
1 clove of garlic chopped
1 red chilli de-seeded & chopped
1 red & yellow pepper sliced
1 squid cleaned & cut into rings (fishmonger can do this)
4/8 fresh prawns with shell on
Half a bowl of peas
1 tsp smoked paprika (or regular)
A good pinch of saffron
½ pint paella rice (I used risotto rice which was perfect)
1 small glass of white wine
1 pint chicken stock (or veg or fish)
A handful of parsley if you have it
What You Do
· Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
· Heat the stock and add the saffron to allow it to infuse the stock for about 10/15 minutes.
· Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large pan and add the chorizo & pancetta, fry until crisp.
· Lower the heat and add the onion, peppers, garlic & chilli and gently fry for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.
· Add the rice & paprika and stir. Once the oil is nearly all absorbed, add the wine and cook off the alcohol.
· Then add the stock/ saffron mix and shake the pan gently (don’t stir). Place in the chicken pieces carefully (so you don’t burn your fingers), then scatter the peas and place in the prawns followed by the calamari.
· Transfer to the oven for 20/25 minutes and serve with a green salad.
Note: Smoked chicken breasts are already cooked so if using chicken thighs, you will need to brown them for a short while in a separate pan before adding to the paella. Also, this is super if cooking for a group as everything looks neat & tidy when guests arrive as there will be no pots on the stove and cooking the dish in the oven means you don’t have to stand over it like a risotto. I can’t stress enough how easy it is to make this dish!