Monday, July 23, 2012

My Maiden Paella

Learned it at lunch time and made it for dinner with friends.
Like salmon, Paella is pronounced without the L sound. Many foreigners believe this to be a Spanish national dish, but my Spaniard friends - no, not the late Mr Seabass - tell me it's in fact a regional dish, from Valencia on the east coast of Spain.

My chef friend learned this dish when he spent some time in a restaurant in Spain. Watch out, he is going to open his restaurant soon in Singapore! We thought we'd better catch him before he becomes famous, so he was over at my place this weekend to teach us how to cook paella.

The most expensive ingredient in paella is saffron, but if you omit this, you lose the authenticity, some golden yellow hue to the dish, and of course, it's antioxidant properties. And needless to say, you will need a paella pan to make this - it is traditionally round, shallow and made of polished steel with 2 handles. Chef taught us how to season the pan - er...what was it he said about treating it with oil and vinegar?!!

I have forgotten the taste of paella since my visit to Barcelona years ago. But what surprised me today was that the squids and mussels were not rubbery even though they was in the pan for a while. Overall, an interesting maiden attempt at a famous dish with somewhat relative success for a virgin chef. 

Here are some pictures from the cooking lesson as well as from my first attempt right after the lesson! Recipe and method at the bottom of this post.

Sweet paprika, saffron and short grain rice
Some kniving skills from chef

Many tips from him as we went along, including how NOT to cut your fingers!
Exuding aroma as it simmers away
The messier, the more authentic!
My version

1 large onion, chopped or finely diced
5 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
2 chopped green chillies (more kick if you don't deseed)
2 garlic cloves, minced
Chorizo or any meat (optional)
1 good pinch of saffron (about $10 for a good pinch)
Pulp from 2 large tomatoes, skinless
1/2 tsp sugar
11/2 tsp sweet paprika
2 cups short grain rice
3 cups stock (bring to boil before adding. Don't add cold stock from fridge)
1/2 cup white wine
Seafood: 200g white fish, 5 prawns, 10 mussels, 2 squids (choose your own favourites)

1. Sweat onions in olive oil over low heat till translucent. Ensure no colouration, ie, don't wait till onions turn brown.
2. Add green chillies and salt.
3. Add garlic. No discolouration.
4. Add chorizo or meat if you prefer (optional)
5. Throw in the saffron. It needs time and heat to infuse. Sprinkle paprika.
6. Add tomato pulp and sugar. Cook till jammy consistency. Put to medium heat and let it evaporate.
7. Add seafood (in some parts of Spain, they add only fish and squid first, and the rest later).
8. Sprinkle sea salt. Add hot stock.
9. Add rice by scattering the grains all over the pan and in between seafood pieces.
10. Simmer for about 15 minutes (then add remaining seafood if you did not put all in at step 7). It is important NOT to stir the rice or seafood. Leave them to simmer as when you placed them in. Stirring will result in gooey paella. The result you're after is loose al dente grains, not starchy lumps.
11. Turn off heat, then rest and toss before serving. The messier, the more authentic.


  1. wonderful, you remind me about this dish, I also ate it during my 2 stays in Spain, I absolutely must prepare it at home, soon!

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  2. Yum!Browsed a spanish restaurant just now as I have a friend's husband is coming to Sydney for a biz trip. An order of paella for 2 is like aud$55, not cheap at all! I made once a long time ago but didn't look as interesting as yours! Love to have it with few glasses of sangria!

    1. Oh, I didn't realise they're that expensive. I suppose seafood + saffron make it expensive. Sangria! Yes!

  3. Lol, thanks, one correction, should be white wine, not red. The end should come out nice and flat like in your last photo, then proceed to scrap and mix up (top drier, bottom a little moist with some soccarat! ) before serving. Looks good, well done!

  4. Oh, I am swooning right now at the sight of your majestic paella! I had this once at a restaurant called El Cerdo in KL. It was absolutely delicious. I think I have to abandon my low carb diet for a bit. I need to look for a paella pan and try your recipe.

    1. Ya, just go on no-carbo for the next meal after the paella. Actually, I did not take too much rice, more seafood!

  5. Your paella looks sensational and I bet it tastes heavenly too. Gorgeous colour too! A South-American friend once cooked this using beer instead of wine and it tasted amazing too. By the way, loved your blog.

    1. Thanks, Veronica! Glad to hear you like the blog. I was admiring your pumpkin crumble too.


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