Cooked in Translation – The Mighty Paella!
Admit it, the title intrigued you! This is a fairly new fun online Foodie Group that I belong to, started by Sofie Ditman from The German Foodie and Pola M from An Italian Cooking in the Midwest. It’s not hard to figure out what each blogs about, drop by their blogs for some lovely recipes. What happens in this group? Well, every month, one of us, as host for that month, posts a standard, usually well known recipe on his or her blog. The other members would then interpret the recipe in their own way, from whichever ethnic background they decide, whether it’s theirs or not! The whole concept of interpreting a dish your way really got me, because surely, that’s what cooking is all about and what we bloggers are doing! If you fancy joining in, you can, just contact Sofie at The German Foodie.
This is my first month with them and as host, I decided to go for one of my all time favourite recipes, something people have been begging me to post, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity! I’m making Spanish Paella, a traditional Valencian rice dish.
Pronounced Pa-yeah-ya, although I quite often lapse into its Anglicised pronunciation (very poor indeed, I know, for someone who speaks Spanish!), this is thought of by the world as a Spanish dish while in actual fact it was born in Valencia and regarded in Spain as a Valencian speciality. Having said that, you will find Paella served all over Spain, from Barcelona to Seville to A Coruna, and naturally, given to variations according to region and cook! Many Valencians will tell you that there is only one type of Paella and that is Paella a la Valencia and it never contains sausages but rabbit and it has to have octopus! Any other versions are just Spanish Arroz dishes. While I was living and working in London in the 90′s, I was involved in a very lively discussion about Paella one lunchtime with my colleagues. In the end, we agreed to disagree, even the 2 Valencians who couldn’t agree with each other! Go figure! Will I get a Valencian backlash? Probably!
But I shall proceed bravely! I have been to Spain many a time, more often than not, off the beaten track, away from the tourist spots. A holiday to me, is about culture and food, not necessarily in that order. I have had paella in more Spanish towns than I can remember, even a very spicy one close to the Morrocan border! While they differed in certain bits of their composition, the one thing they all had in common was the method of cooking and I think that’s what makes the dish what it is.
My paella recipe? Well, it has chicken, sausages (chicken as I don’t eat pork, chorizo is always the one to use otherwise), seafood, roasted peppers and I finish it off with a small scattering of smoked salmon. Needless to say, lose the chicken and you make it totally seafood. Paella is made in a paella pan but hey, if you don’t have one, a large, shallow frying pan or wok will have to suffice and will do nicely. Trust Me.
I have to apologise for my lack of pictures. I’ve made paella 3 times in the last month, twice for parties at home and once for a catering job. Given how quickly I was doing things, with the end being the focus, blog pictures were just not uppermost in my mind! I’ll update the photos in the near future, I hope!
You know, in my opinion, use the right rice, paprika, garlic and saffron and you’ve got the perfect base for your creativity!
Paella (serves 6-8)
3 tbsp olive oil
500g paella rice (bomba)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 pinch saffron
2-2.5l hot chicken stock
1 jar roasted peppers, drained (or half green and half red – fresh)
12 green beans, chopped inch long
2 tomatoes, chopped small
12 large prawns, in shell
500g seafood (salmon, mussels, clams)
500g chicken, thighs are best, bite size pieces
3 sausages/chorizos, sliced
handful chopped flat parsley
handful of smoked salmon, chopped (trimmings are fine)
lemons, cut in wedges
1. Sprinkle the saffron into the chicken stock.
2. Heat your pan over medium high heat and brown the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until soft.
4. Now add the rice and give it a good stir before adding 1.5l of the stock and paprika.
5. Bring to boil and cook on a high simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, at which point the rice will be nearly cooked.
6. Add 500ml more of the stock, the vegetables and seafood, giving it a good stir.
7. Keep cooking for another 10-15 minutes, adding more stock if needed, until the rice is fully cooked as is all the seafood. Scatter the smoked salmon, stir to warm the salmon through.
8. Squeeze some lemon juice and add some freshly ground black pepper.
9. Scatter the parsley all over, arrange the seafood on the rice and serve with lemon wedges.
Bloggers – want to join in? It’s easy, get in touch with Sofie!