Paella is probably the most famous and recognizable Spanish dish, in fact, it is so famous that many people outside of Spain regard it as the national dish. In Spain, however, it is considered to be a regional speciality and it origins can be traced back to the 15th century when rice became a staple ingredient in Valencia. The Valencian people are passionately proud of their paella and it has become one of the defining symbols of the region. The Catalan word paella actually describes the shallow, double-handled pan that is used to cook the dish and is originally derived from the Latin word patella which means pan. There are many versions of Paella but the three most recognizable are Valencian (paella valenciana: meat and vegetable based), seafood (paella de marisco: fish and shellfish based) and mixed (paella mixta: a combination of meat, seafood and vegetables). Each version has many variations and Valencians will happily debate until the end of time about the correct ingredients and methods that should be used to make the perfect paella. Therefore, it can be quite difficult for a non-Valencian to even suggest a Paella recipe without suffering the scorn, mockery and indignation of an entire region
- pinch of saffron
- 1 tsp oregano or thyme
- 4 cups fish or vegetable stock
- 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika (pimentón dulce ahumado)
- 1 bay leaf
- olive oil
- 1 onion
- 1 red pepper
- 3 garlic clove
- 2 cups of paella rice such as 'bahía-senia' or 'bomba' (arroz bomba o bahía-senia)
- 1 large tomato
- 1 large fillet of white fish such as haddock or cod
- handful of mussels
- handful of clams
- 4-6 large prawns
- freshly ground black pepper
- Warm the saffron in a warm saucepan for about 30 seconds and then add 4 cups of stock, the paprika and a bay leaf. Simmer very gently.
- If using whole prawns, break off the heads, remove the shells and de-vein. Then add the heads to the stock (if using vegetable stock) and put the prawn bodies to one side.
- Tip: to prepare whole prawns, just break off the heads by twisting with your hands and then carefully pull the shells away from the belly.
- Once removed you will notice a thin black line along the prawn, this often contains grit and sand.
- Run a knife along this line and then remove the vein with the tip of the knife.
- Warm two tablespoons of olive oil in a paella pan and then add the very finely chopped onion, pepper, oregano and garlic. Soften for about 7-8 minutes.
- Tip: leave some longer strips of pepper for garnishing.
- Add the rice and stir well. Then grate the tomato into the rice so the flesh passes through the grater but the skin does not.
- Continue stirring until the rice starts to dry out. Drain the stock, add half to the rice and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, wash your clams and mussels, removing any grit and cutting off the beards.
- Then, add the clams, mussels and prawns to the pan, pushing down into the rice and then add half of the remaining stock and simmer for about 7 minutes.
- Cut the haddock fillet into small portions and fry in a splash of olive oil in a separate hot pan, skin-side down for about 4 minutes until the skin is browned and crisp.
- Remove and place to one side.
- Tip: when crisping the skin of fish, try not to move it while it is cooking as you will damage the skin.
- After about four minutes on a high heat you should be able to ease a palette knife under the skin and lift.
- Add the rest of the stock to the pan and simmer for 5 more minutes and then add the fish pieces, flesh-side down and continue to simmer for a couple more minutes until the liquid is all gone.
- At this point you should taste the rice and it should just be cooked. Season with pepper and then remove from the heat, cover with foil and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
- Finally garnish with parsley and chives and serve with bread and lemon wedges.
- This seafood paella recipe is perfect for sharing with friends and family and always raises a smile.