Chef Beth cooks Paella with SCANPAN
Paella is one of the most famous Spanish dishes. There are all sorts of arguments over what really constitutes paella, what is considered traditional and what is not. So for all the Paella Princesses out there, no, this is not traditional paella. This is my paella. Because initially it was meant to be a dish made with what you had in the house. This is what I had in my house.
Paella can be so versatile, it can have seafood, poultry, pork, or even be vegetarian. To break it down to its most basic premise then, it is a rice dish with a Mediterranean tomato base (called a ‘sofrito’) topped with really whatever you want. Most consider saffron an essential part of the paella recipe, and certainly it does lend the rice a certain yellow colour and depth of flavour that is lovely, however it is also very expensive, and I don’t think you should have to forsake paella just because you cant get saffron. So in this recipe, it is optional.
My recipe calls for par- boiled long grain rice. Traditionally, paella is made with ‘bomba’ rice, a short grain rice which is easy to get if you’re in Spain. I however, am not in Spain, and find that this rice works perfectly. The only thing you need to remember regarding any rice used for paella is DO NOT STIR IT. Once you have added you stock, and given it a bit of a swirl, that’s it, party time is over, no more stirring. The reason for this is that rice becomes sticky, gluey and gelatinous with stirring. Once you have added your stock your paella becomes a recipe of layering the rest of your ingredients into your rice without stirring it. Not even once. This is also very important if you are a Paella Princess and you wish to create a ‘socarrat’.
You can cook your paella in a Scanpan Maitre D’ Paella pan or a Scanpan Classic could even do the trick as I’ve used here.
A paella pan ‘paellera’ is also considered the traditional way to cook paella, I don’t have one of those, but I used my trusty non-stick SCANPAN Classic Stir Fry pan and it was glorious. This being said, if you insist on creating a traditional Paella with a ‘socarrat’ (the crispy, crunchy part at the very bottom of the paella pan once it is done cooking, that Paella aficionados crave and ruminate over) you would be better off with an actual paella pan. Personally I don’t like doing dishes, and using my SCANPAN non -stick makes my life simpler. I’m willing to forgo ‘socarrat’ for that. Also to have a pan that has a single function for a single dish has no place in my home with limited cupboard space. I am a big fan of pans that can do everything, and I’m thrilled to have found mine. You could use any wide SCANPAN that isn’t too deep, in order to encourage reduction of your liquid.
The ingredients depend heavily on the size of your ingredient and the size of your pan. Therefore a little estimation is needed, or just assume you need extra and cook it up afterwards for, well, extras.
- 12-16 mussels
- 2 onions, chopped
- 30 ml oil, more if needed to stop anything sticking, but with non-stick you can use even less.
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 can chopped Italian tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 200g pack bacon
- 1 large red pepper, chopped into 2.5cm squares
- Pinch saffron (optional)
- 1 liter light chicken or fish stock
- 1 chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
- 200g calamari, sliced
- 18-24 prawns (depending on size) peeled, with vein removed
- 1 lemon, zested, and then cut into 4 wedges
- ½ cup frozen peas
- Another lemon, not zested, cut into 8 wedges
- 10 calamata olives, de- pipped, and sliced
- 10ml parsley, chopped
- 20 ml fennel or dill, chopped and divided into 2
- If you are using fresh mussels, remove the beards and scrub them well. Rinse them over and over until the water is clear. Place the mussels, still wet, in a saucepan, ensuring they all fit snugly, but only in a single layer. Cover the saucepan, and heat over medium heat for +- 5 minutes or until the mussels have opened. Throw any unopened ones away. If you are using frozen mussels, ignore this step as they are already cooked.
- Make a ‘sofrito’ (a Spanish flavoured base) by sautéing your onions until they are soft. Add your chopped garlic, can of tomatoes, smoked paprika, one half of the chopped fennel/dill and lemon zest. Cook for 15-20 minutes, over a medium heat until it is well reduced. It should be a thick and almost sticky consistency.
- Season this beauty with salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar to taste. This is important: you need to taste your ‘sofrito’ at this point. If it is too sour, add more sugar. If it is too bland, add more salt. If it is too weak, add more pepper. This is the flavour base of your paella, so get it to the exact flavor you want, because if you don’t like it now, you wont like it later.
- Add the chopped bacon. And cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Add the rice and red peppers, stir for approximately 1-2 minutes, until the rice is covered by the ‘sofrito’ and looks translucent.
- Make sure your stock is hot, otherwise it will decrease the temperature of your dish. If you are using a stock cube or sachet, add it to boiled water now. Add the saffron to the stock if you are using it.
- Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and add them to the rice. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Season the prawns and calamari with salt, pepper and lemon juice from the 4 wedges. Squeeze them over a cupped palm to catch any pips. (However, if like me, you had to de-shell your own prawns, you may want to get someone else to do this step, because it is a fact that no matter how careful you are, whether you realise it or not, you will always have micro cuts after de-shelling prawns, and believe me, lemon juice will make you realise it.) Add these to the pan, pushing them down into the rice. Allow these to simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Lastly, add the frozen peas and mussels, cover your pan with a lid and allow the mussels to heat through for a further 5 minutes. The liquid should mostly have evaporated by this stage, and the rice should be cooked through. (Paella can be made in advance, up until this stage, and reheated in the oven before serving.) All SCANPANS cookware goes in the oven with no problem.
- Arrange the 8 lemon wedges and calamata olive slices on top, remove paella from the heat, and leave it to stand and rest for 5 minutes, with the lid on.
- Serve in the pan garnished with the fresh chopped parsley and the other half of chopped dill/fennel.