This Valencian specialty harnesses the most flavour possible from the simple ingredients complemented by the gentle spice of smoked paprika and saffron. This recipe is designed to work with any pan you have around the house where all the ingredients fit. Authentic paella is prepared in a very shallow, thin pan which allows the rice to get crunchy and form something called a socarrat in the base of the pan. This is achievable with a regular pan however for the first time you attempt this dish, focus more on correctly cooking the rice before you try your hand at developing the perfect socarrat. You can check your rice once its done cooking for how crispy the rice at the base of the pan has gotten and even increase the heat towards the end to make it extra crispy. Proceed with caution however and always allow the rice to cool down for 5-10 minutes after cooking to allow the rice to loosen from the pan.
Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 45 minutes
Serves 2-3 people
INGREDIENTS 3 Chicken thighs 1 red bell pepper 1 green bell pepper 1 medium onion 1/3rd of a leek 3 cloves of garlic ½ teaspoon smoked paprika 1 pinch of saffron threads 200g medium grain rice
(ideally calasparra or bomba) Extra virgin olive oil and salt to taste
EQUIPMENT Chopping board and knife Large frying pan or medium sized pot with fitting lid (aluminum foil or cling film can act as a replacement for a fitting lid) Rubber spatula or wooden spoon
1. Begin by chopping the bell peppers and onion into a small dice and finely mincing the garlic. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
2. Place a large frying pan over medium high heat and add a generous lug of olive oil. While the pan is heating up, season the chicken liberally with salt. Once the oil it hot, add the chicken to the pan. Do not crowd the pan and allow some space in between each piece of chicken.
3. Allow the chicken to brown well on one side for 4-5 minutes and turn over, remove from the pan once the other side has browned well and place into a container.
4. To the hot pan add the diced bell peppers, onion and leek, season with a good pinch of salt. Coat the vegetables with oil from the pan, adding more if necessary, to coat them well. Reduce the heat to medium or medium low to allow the vegetables to cook slowly. Stir the vegetables occasionally to allow them to cook evenly and gently until well coloured. This process, depending on the heat of your stove should take 15-20 minutes.
This preparation is known in many cultures as a sofrito. A combination of various diced vegetables cooked down slowly to create a flavour base for many recipes. Many paella recipes are cooked much like this one, without the addition of any flavoured stock. The characteristic flavour from the paella comes in part from the inclusion of saffron and smoked paprika but more so from colouring the vegetables and main protein well and extracting as much flavour from them as possible.
5. Once coloured, add the minced garlic and the spices to the pan and incorporate well into the sofrito, cook for 1-2 minutes and add the chicken pieces, again, stirring to coat. Add your rice to the pan and coat to combine with the contents of the pan. Cook gently while stirring for 2-3 minutes.
6. Add 500ml of water to the pan and stir to incorporate. Season well with salt and bring up to a boil. Stir the rice once more and reduce to a bare simmer. Place a lid on the pan and allow to cook, without moving, for 15 minutes on low heat.
7. Check the rice to see if it is done cooking, you want rice that is tender but not soft and mushy. You want each grain to be separate from another. If the rice is still udnercooked, add a small splash of water and continue to steam over low heat for 5 more minutes.
8. Once cooked, allow the rice to sit, uncovered for 10 minutes while getting ready to serve. Paella requires minimal garnishing but feel free to add a squeeze of lemon or a sprinkling of slices spring onion if you wish.