AUTHENTIC SPANISH PAELLA
Paella is one of those dishes that many people think is too hard to make for themselves, but I can assure you this dish is super simple. I like to cook it all in a large frying pan and then serve it to the table for everyone to help themselves.
I’ve used my creole marinade in this dish to add some kick, and with the smoky paprika it really is the secret ingredient to go from bland to delicious, and from a good to a great meal. This takes about 50 minutes to make from go to whoa, with about 25 minutes simmering time, so I recommend enjoying a small glass of wine while you cook. I've added king prawns to this recipe and these are best sourced from a reputable fishmonger. Be sure to go to a delicatessen to get a good quality traditional smoked chorizo; this will make a huge difference.
Did you know paella is said to be the outcome of two great empires? The Romans and the Moors. The Romans bringing the pan and the Moors bringing the rice. As usual there is a lot of debate over who invented the dish. Some claim paella is derived from the Arabic word ‘Baqiyah’, which means ‘leftovers’, as it was customary for the servants to mix all the leftovers from royal feasts with rice. Others say the word comes from old Valencian and probably has its roots in the Latin 'patella' meaning pan.
The most romantic suggestion of them all proclaims that the dish was first prepared by a lover for his fiancée and that the word is a corruption of ‘para ella’ (meaning ‘for her’ in Spanish). Like all myths, I’m sure there’s some truth in this and although many women still traditionally do the cooking in Spain, making paella is usually left to the men, much like cooking on the BBQ is here in Australia.
If you have ever had the pleasure to taste paella on a visit to Spain and have seen a traditional paella pan you would have noticed that they are very shallow and quite wide. This is because paella was traditionally cooked by farmers and labourers and Spain doesn’t have a lot of forests, so they used to use twigs and small branches to create a hot fire that cooked food quickly rather than rely on thick logs for coals to cook foods slowly. In Valencia where paella is considered to have first originated it is traditional to make paella with chicken, rabbit, snails and green beans. I’d say something of an acquired taste. So, how does a Moorish dish from Valencia become the most famous Spanish dish in the world? Well weirdly enough we have the Spanish dictator General Franco to thank.
Under his reign from 1936 to 1975 General Franco formed a Nationalist and uniform Spanish identity, cherry-picking icons from the dozens of different cultural groups across the country. That’s why ‘flamenco’ , a Romani cultural music and dance from Andalusia, is played all across Spain simply because Franco enjoyed it. Funnily enough the same thing happened to paella.
There are accounts that say that Franco loved a good paella and routinely went out in Madrid in search of one. Not wanting to miss out on his patronage (or perhaps risk his wrath) paella started appearing on the lunchtime menus of bars and restaurants across Madrid. From there, the dish spread throughout the country, becoming part of Franco’s vision of Nationalist Spain. With such a colourful history this dish sure passes the test of time.
So, like in Spain where you see families enjoying paella straight out of the pan, I suggest you enjoy this meal ‘family style’ too as sharing food this way creates a wonderful atmosphere.
PREP TIME: 10 mins
COOKING TIME: 30-40 mins
3 tbsps olive oil
300g free-range skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 3cm pieces
150g smoked chorizo, cut into small 1cm disks
1 brown onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
200g button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red capsicum, sliced
1-2 tbsp CREOLE (to taste)
300g Arborio rice
1 litre chicken stock
120ml dry white wine
150g fresh raw king prawns (peel and de-vein)
100g frozen peas
Lemon, sliced into wedges
Fresh parsley, chopped
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then fry the chicken over a medium-high heat on one side for 3-4 minutes. Turn over chicken and move up the pan to clear space to add the chorizo and cook for 4 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate and reserve.
There should be some chorizo oil left in the pan; on a medium heat, add the onion and capsicum, fry for 4 minutes stirring until they begin to soften.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add butter and melt, then add mushroom and cook for 3 minutes.
Add CREOLE and fry for 1 minute more.
Stir in the rice, and coat all grains then add the wine, and cook out the alcohol for 1 minute stirring.
Add 500ml of the stock and stir until absorbed about 5-6 minutes.
Add rest of the stock and stir in, then cook on a low heat without stirring for 25 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed.
Add the prawns, peas and the cooked chicken and chorizo. Cook for a further 4 minutes stirring gently. Taste to check seasoning, then garnish with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges. Crack open a dry rose, Tempranillo or Rioja or perhaps some corona beers of you're not a wine fan.