Passion, history and honour bubble and swell in the paella debate. I don’t wish to enter this arena, but I feel that I may have no choice in the matter. My paella, and it is my paella, has a lot of ingredients, takes a fair amount of preparation and is neither traditional nor groundbreaking. “Why make it, then?” I hear you cry. It’s delicious. The flavours give you a gentle slapping around your chops and make you beg for more.
I started cooking this as a way to eat more of the things I love. I include peas and Chorizo, prawns, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil and garlic. Lots of garlic. In fact, I use so much garlic that some would find it overpowering. However, this is something you’ve got complete control over. I just feel great after eating garlic. It doesn’t make you popular, but hey.
Arborio rice is great to cook with and I use it to get a nice texture in this paella. Again, I’m going with what I like and what’s available. There comes that magical moment when I realise that I have all the ingredients that I need to make paella. When the moment arrives, I jump into action so that I have time to enjoy preparing it. The quantities change each time, so I’ll simply recount the events of yesterday that led to this hearty and comforting dish. Valencian? Nowhere near, but I love it.
250g Arborio rice
900ml strong chicken stock
1 tin garden peas
200g raw peeled prawns
150g Chorizo (chopped)
1 onion (finely chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 tsp smoked paprika
juice of 1 lemon
1 tomato (chopped)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp fresh oregano (chopped)
3 tsp fresh parsley (chopped)
Plenty of olive oil
A little butter
I began, as always, by heating olive oil in a really wide frying pan. The oil should cover the bottom of the pan. I added a little butter at this point and then tossed the rice until coated and glistening. I let it cook for a few minutes and gently stirred the rice once or twice. In went the onion until just cooked and then all of the garlic. All of it, I tell you! At this point, it’s a little balancing act. You don’t want the garlic to burn, the onion to brown, or the rice to stick to the pan. When the garlic is just cooked, add enough stock to almost cover the rice and stir gently. Throw in the paprika and the dried oregano.
In the past, I’ve cooked the onion at the same time as the Chorizo and then added the rice to the orange-coloured oil. This works quite well, but I don’t really want the Chorizo to be cooked for so long. I prefer it to retain most of the flavour. Onwards! I continued adding stock each time the rice absorbed it. Since my wife is heavily pregnant, no open bottles of wine were on hand to add a dash of fun to the rice. Still, a good squeeze of lemon helped. I added the Chorizo once all of the stock had been used and stirred in the parsley and fresh oregano. I’ve been growing these in my garden and this year the parsley has gone crazy. It’s got a great flavour and if you’ve put as much garlic in as I did, you need it!
So what was left on the work top? Some prawns, peas and pepper. All the ingredients were doing their thing. By adding butter at this stage, I would get a nice, nutty socarrat (the crunchy base of the paella). The peas went in next, though I was careful not to stir the bottom of the pan and risk disturbing the rice that would gently brown. A little pepper next. I always find it hard to restrain myself when it comes to grinding pepper. Too much just isn’t enough for me. Finally, I laid the prawns on top and spooned hot rice over them to cook. More lemon juice. Quick taste. Finished. Once the prawns were pink and the bottom of the pan was nicely browned, it was time to serve. More butter or olive oil can loosen up the paella if it is too dry upon serving. I didn’t need to add salt because of the stock and Chorizo, but it’s better to check the seasoning before you take the paella off the heat.