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Saturday, 10 April 2010

Improvised Paella

Saturday evening, I have a terrible cold and going out is not an option. It's still the week-end though, so I want to make something special for dinner. My boyfriend's late dash to our local fishmonger produces a few tiger prawns and some cockles, the remains of the stock for the day, long bagged by more organised people. Despite having run out of saffron and not owning a paella pan, I managed to rustle up a paella worthy of the name. After all, since there are so many variations of the dish and each area of Spain has its own, I believe I am allowed some creativity :-)

INGREDIENTS (3 - 4 people)

  • 300 gr. of paella rice (I used arroz Calasparra)
  • 70 gr. of chorizo sausage, finely sliced (I was given one as a present by my brother and his girlfriend, who recently went to Barcelona)
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 red chilli pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 8 tiger prawns
  • 150 gr of cockles (deshelled)
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 carrot 
  • 1 stick of celery
  • Half a glass of dry white wine (or better, Spanish sherry or jerez if you have it)
  • Half a lemon
  • Two handful of chopped parsely
  • A sprig of thyme
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to season

Start by prepping your prawns. Pull off the legs and heads, reserving the latter. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut along the edge of the prawn's inner shell, in order to make it easier to peel off when they'll be eaten. Now make a light fish stock: fill a small saucepan with water, add the carrot, the celery stick, a sprig of parsley and the prawn heads. Bring to the boil, let it simmer gently for about 20 minutes and strain just before using it.

Get a heavy cast-iron pan on the hob at a low heat, with a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil. Finely chop the shallot, garlic and chill and cook gently until soft; add the chorizo and let it sizzle for a few minutes, until nicely coloured. 

Tip the rice in the pan and 'toast' it, which means let it soak up all the juices from the olive oil and the chorizo for one minute, stirring it with a wooden spoon to avoid it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the wine and once the alcohol has evaporated, the courgette (diced), the cherry tomatoes (halved), the thyme, some salt and pepper. Ladle the stock a bit at the time into the pan, delicately stirring the rice from time to time to prevent it from sticking, as you would do for risotto. Keep on repeating this exercise until the rice is cooked and all the liquid has been absorbed. If you run out of stock, feel free to use a bit of hot water. 

Now, one of the thing I like the most about paella is the delicious golden and crunchy crust on top of the rice. How to obtain this without a paella pan? This is my solution: heat up your oven's grill and when the rice is cooked, tip it in a baking tin, drizzle it with a little olive oil and stick it under the grill for about 10 minutes, in order to allow the rice to develop a beautiful golden colour.

When ready, served sprinkled with fresh chopped parsley and a wedge of lemon. 

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