When I was at university, I was lucky enough to go on a year abroad to Spain. I lived with the loveliest family in Valencia and it was an amazing experience, one I will never forget, and feel very grateful that we are still in touch to this day. And one of the many things I enjoyed about living in Spain, was trying all the delicious food and it is here where my very healthy relationship started with paella.
Paella originated from Valencia, traditionally using cooked meat (chicken or rabbit) tomatoes (peeled and grated), paprika, rosemary, saffron, garlic and various types of bean (such as butter beans, green beans) and in Valencia, many people have a different opinion as to how paella should be cooked. The family I stayed with would often make paella and, let me tell you, it was the most delicious paella I have ever tasted. Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of the paellas they made as back in those days, we didn’t take as many pictures – I guess we were just happy to get together eat, drink good wine and just enjoy each other’s company.
I’ve sampled many paellas, one of my favourites being Paella con Bogavante (paella with lobster) during a recent visit to Spain, and one thing that I think rings so true is that you can not rush a paella. In my experience, paella is a dish that should be loved and nurtured – I’ve known paellas to take as long as 6 hours to cook!
As you might have guessed, I am a huge fan, so much so that I introduced paella to my kids a few years ago. One of my most favourite things about paella is that there are no specific rules on the ingredients you should add to the rice. So if your kids are anything like mine and are prone to rejecting anything with a splash of green or red veggies, then you can simply start with the rice, and they can still enjoy the flavour of the stock, saffron and herbs. Then as the kids get older you can add the veggies, meat or fish they might like. These days I tend to cook the rice with their favourite veggies (peas, sweetcorn and mixed peppers) and then roast a chicken to serve on the side should they fancy it. It’s the perfect twist on a family Sunday lunch.
And if you want your paella to look lovely and authentic, I would highly recommend investing in a good paella pan. I’ve purchased and gone through a few, retailers such as Lakeland and Argos have good quality and affordable pans that last.
Anyway, enough chatting as I’m getting super hungry! Don’t worry the recipe I am about to share with you, doesn’t take too long – around an hour – and is the perfect dish to serve on a lazy Sunday.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
600g short-grain paella rice such as Calasparra or if you can’t get your hands on that, arborio rice is an excellent substitute
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
120g frozen sweetcorn
120g frozen peas
200g fresh or tinned chopped tomatoes
180g raw king prawns (optional – this was mainly for the adults but your kids might just like it too!)
For the stock:
1.5 litres of vegetable or chicken stock (to your taste)
2 tsp saffron
Fresh rosemary (optional)
Pimentón dulce (smoked Spanish paprika)
2 1/2 tsp salt
- Chop the onions and garlic and put to one side.
- Add the olive oil to your paella pan and heat, once it’s nice and hot, add your onions and garlic and cook until they are nice and soft.
- Add your vegetable stock, saffron, pimentón dulce and rosemary to a jug of boiled water (1.5 litres).
- Add your fresh or tinned tomatoes to the pan and cook for 4 minutes.
- Chop your peppers up, add to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.
- Now it’s time to add the rice to your pan, mixing it well with the vegetables.
- Add your stock and cook on a vigorous heat for about 10 minutes.
- Cook for a further 30-40 or so minutes on a low-medium heat. Check the rice every so often and try not to stir it – if it’s slightly burnt at the bottom in the end, don’t worry this just adds extra flavour!
- Add the frozen peas, sweetcorn and prawns and cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat and cover with some foil or grease proof paper for about 5 minutes to allow the rice to soak in the last bit of moisture.
- Y ya está, that’s it! – you are ready to serve your paella straight from the pan.
I hope you enjoy many a family meal eating paella, it’s really worth a try because once you’ve perfected it, you’ll look forward to those happy family meals every time!