Friday 1 August 2014



Paella is a staple of the Spanish world and like every other dish has many variations. 

Legend has it that it was in the coastal beaches of  Valencia on the south-east tip of Spain that this dish originated and so is commonly referred to as Paella Valencia. It is the signature dish of this beautiful region of Spain. With a base of olive oil and white bomba rice, this paella is flavoured with Spanish Saffron lots of vegetables of your own choice like peppers, beans, peas and herbs, and has meats like pancetta, salami, rabbit and chicken. Seafood including shellfish, escargot, clams and mussels are often included. Modern day additions are onions and calamari as well as fish and scallop. I like to flavour my paella with hot paprika and lemon to complete the flavours. The bottom of the pot has crispy bits - the socarrat that one scrapes up to relish. If the Spanish bomba is not available Italian arbario will work well. 

It is such a fun dish to create as you can add what you love and omit any flavours that do not titillate your palate. Made in a quantity, it is best served for a family meal and large get togethers. Throwing a Paella party or cooking together as a group can make it an exciting event. Enjoy it with a glass of chilled Sangria. It can be an unforgettable experience for all ages!

My Seafood, Charizo and Pancetta Paella

Serves 15 

340 gms diced pancetta

Olive oil
1 very large onion
1 kg skinless bonelss chicken thighs cut into large chunks
1 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 tbsp hot paprika
8 cloves of  finely chopped garlic 
1 cup peppadew peppers
1 cup parsley
150 gms thinly sliced small hot salami
1.3 kg arbario rice
1 tsp saffron threads
75 gms tomato paste
2.25 litres good chicken broth (9cups)
2 roasted red peppers
600 gms shelled prawns, washed and salted
340 gms unshelled prawns, washed and salted
1 cup peas
1/4 th cup fresh lemon juice

Creating the base

In a 15 inch paellera or flat large skillet pan heat and saute 340gms diced pancetta until golden. Add  6 tbsp olive oil. 
Add 1 very large onion which has been finely diced  ( adding a pinch of sugar helps to caramalise it faster). Sauté till soft. 
Add 1 kg boneless, skinless pieces of chicken thigh and  continue to cook until it has cooked through.
Lower the flame. Sprinkle 1 tsp cumin, 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano and 3 tbsp of hot paprika all over, 
Add 6 to 8 garlic cloves – very finely chopped. Be careful it does not burn as it cooks very quickly. Keep cooking and stirring.
Add 1 cup of small pickled peppers cut in 4(peppadew)
1 cup of finely chopped parsley.
Add 150 gms of hot salami rings of choice

Now add 1.3 kg rice and give it a good stir, until all the rice has been coated with the oils in the pan. 

In a measuring cup mix 1 tsp saffron threads that have been crushed, 3 tbsp tomato puree and 1 litre of chicken broth. Add and mix well.

Keep adding more stock as the liquid evaporates and allow to flip the rice over every few minutes. You will need an additional 1.25 litres or 5 cups to complete the cooking. Taste the rice for doneness. 
In the last 5 minutes add 600 gm of shelled prawns that have been washed and lightly salted mix it into the rice. Also add 2 finely sliced roasted red peppers at this time.

To top and decorate the paella add 350 gm of unshelled large prawns also washed and salted and 1 cup of peas. Sprinkle with parsley. Squeeze the juice of one large lemon or 1/4th cup all over. Cover and steam for 5 m to 7 minutes. Serve immediately.


If you prefer a milder flavour use mild paprika and salami instead of hot. 

Prepare everything ahead of time. 

Create the base and keep aside until ready to serve and eat. 
Heat the base and then add the rice and remaining ingredients. This will take about 30 minutes to cook through.

Store bought chicken stock is already salted. However if the chicken stock is salt less, the rice will be tasteless. Add salt to the rice accordingly. 

Saffron is best stored in the fridge. It becomes crisp and you can crush it easily with the back of a teaspoon without having to dry roast it.

Most Paelleras do not have lids as traditionally Paella is never covered and mostly cooked on large open fires in the outdoors. Use pieces of foil to cover and steam or place the paellera in a hot oven for 5 minutes to cook the large prawns on top.  

Seafood like crab legs that are cracked, lobster tails in pieces or even  fresh calamari in rings can be added instead of the prawns if you wish. Buy the fresh seafood, wash and salt it for best results. 

For more recipes from my collection click for my e-cookbook available now.

Niloufer's Kitchen: Spanish Tapas
Niloufer's Kitchen:Moroccan
Niloufer's Kitchen:Winter 

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