Sunday, 16 September 2012

Paella, the clever person's risotto

Paella Valenciana
Why clever you ask? Well, the Spaniards, as opposed to the Italians, in my opinion have the upper hand with their most famous rice dish as you don't have to stand there for 20 long minutes stirring and adding stock, ladle by ladle, patiently waiting until the moment it is cooked perfectly. Which can be easily missed, if like me, you can't cook risotto without adding wine, ladle by ladle to yourself. I would never cook risotto for a dinner party as it's just pointless as you really need to give it lots of attention, you can't just leave it. I always shout NOOO when on Come Dine With Me I see risotto on a menu, predictably the poor starving guests will be left alone while the 'chef just pops to the kitchen to START cooking his main course. Aargh! Risotto is amazing for a comforting supper when timing doesn't matter and The Boyfriend doesn't want to see you until dinner is ready anyway (hmmm that's every night), but Paella on the other hand is a genius dish. Dinner party friendly it can be started in advance, and those plump little grains of bomba rice actually don't like being stirred, preferring to cook all by themselves, leaving you free to fill up wine and forget to put the olives out for your guests.

Not all paellas are full of expensive seafood and I think this one, from Valencia (where I believe Paella is originally from) which is full of land-dwelling beasts instead, namely chickens and pigs, is better suited to being cooked and eaten in the UK when the sun isn't shining. It is an excellent dinner party dish, is a one pot wonder and you get lots of oohs and aahs when you plonk it on the table.

Feeds 6. Take a large pinch of saffron and make a little foil parcel for it, fully enclosing it.  Take your largest frying pan and dry toast the package for 2 minutes then set aside. Turn the heat up to max, sprinkle salt around the edge of the pan and add a splash of olive oil. Brown 6 chicken thighs and 6 pork spare ribs really well. This provides a lot of flavour so do it properly. Stir about a bit and add 2 grated tomatoes*, 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika and the saffron (not the foil, obviously). Cook for 5 minutes, evaporating most of the water from the tomatoes. Add 2 litres of chicken stock and bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Now add about 2 big handfulls of chopped runner beans and 500g bomba paella rice, and seasoning, making sure it is all evening spread. Cook on a high heat for 12 minutes, don't stir, have another glass of wine instead. The rice will sort of steam itself. So clever. Place a rosemary spring on top, turn to lowest setting and cover with foil for 5 minutes. Then turn the heat off, remove the foil and leave for another 5 minutes before serving.

It's nice to plonk the pan on the table and let people help themselves. No dodgy sangria required.

*Most genius cooking tip I ever read, if you grate a tomato, the flesh and juice gets pushed through and the skin, which you don't want anyway gets left behind, try it!