The perfect paella

Having just spent the best part of an hour revising our paella recipe, I must share it with you. I have cooked this to great acclaim many times (golly what a boast) but I reckon the results are still improving, aided in part by others. Notably my friend Anne-France who explained in her beautiful Franglais that I should drop the chicken breast we used to include in our paella kit in favour of a different part of the chicken which included some serious skin, as the skin really contributed to the flavour. We then upset all our regular customers by swapping to chicken wings – oh dear – too much skin, not enough meat. So we graduated onto chicken “thighs” from a top quality catering butcher. Just the job, I reckon, except that the skin has a tendency to slip away when you’re chopping the thighs up as one thigh has to be split between two (2-serving) paella packs. One day I’m sure I’ll solve that problem too.

More recently I realised that to solve the problem of the whole prawns taking too long to cook, when nestled in the top of the paella at the shellfish adding stage, I should boil them quickly for two minutes to cook them to perfect pink before adding them to the paella.

BenM pae cropped

Anyway, I’m really proud of this recipe.

1 Fish Society paella pack for 2

contains best Spanish paella rice, saffron, clams, mussels, king prawns, squid, monkfish, chorizo sausage and chicken

You’ll also need:
1/3 red pepper
1 small garlic clove
1 lemon
1 medium onion
Half tin of chopped tomatoes
20ml / 1 tbsp olive oil
½ level tsp paprika
Salt & pepper
1 glass dry white wine

1 Defrost paella pack, ideally overnight in fridge. Open each bag and drain. You might want to cut some pieces smaller. Open each clam with a quarter twist of a blunt knife. Season chicken and monkfish. Chop onion and garlic finely. Deseed pepper and chop into strips. Soak saffron in a glass of white wine.
2 Gently heat olive oil in large frying pan. Brown chicken, remove.
3 Cook onions until opaque. Stir in rice, garlic, paprika, red pepper, tomatoes, saffron and its soaking liquid. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and stir for 5 mins until liquid absorbed.
4 Add further ¼ pint boiling water, plus wine, squid, monk, chicken, sausage (and snails if using). Keep to a simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir gently a couple of times. IT MUST NOT BOIL. You want the rice to be pretty substantially cooked at this point. Give it a little longer if necessary.
5 Bring a medium pan of water to the boil then add the king prawns. Remove as soon as they turn pink (about two minutes – precision-cooking these large prawns gets a better result than cooking them in the paella).
6 Arrange clams, mussels (shell-side up, initially) and prawns on top of the paella. Cover with foil, cook 5 mins. Now check it over. Ideally the mixture should be moist but not runny. Cook a little longer if necessary, bearing in mind that it would be better to have a slightly runny mixture than to overcook the fish! Turn mussels over and serve with lemon wedges.
Variations: add green beans or peas (at step 5) or whitebait (fry separately, add at last minute).



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