Paella is another of those dishes that might seem terribly exotic and too complicated to make at home but it’s really not. It’s just rice with stuff in it! It’s a little like making a risotto but not as demanding about the stirring bit. Like risotto, paella can be made with pretty much anything you have lying around or is on sale in the supermarket. A traditional Spanish style paella usually involves a ton of seafood of various species and some chorizo and possibly a dozen other ingredients but that is not necessary and an easier version can still be very delicious. It can be as simple or complex as you like once you get the base of it right and really, it’s quite difficult to get wrong. I’m using cooked frozen prawns here but you could use other seafood or chicken or pork or leave the meat out altogether and use more veg and a veg stock cube instead of chicken stock cube if you are feeding veggies or having a meat free day yourself. The amounts given here would feed two greedy people
Paella for beginners
- Two tablespoons-ish olive or veg oil
- A small onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped or minced
- 500 mls of chicken stock (made from a cube is fine)
- 150 grams of whatever rice you have handy
- A level teaspoon of turmeric
- Two or three tomatoes finely chopped. You could substitute canned chopped tomatoes if needs be (a half of a normal sized can. They sell half sized cans these days which are handy to have for these kind of occurrences.)
- A pinch of dried thyme or oregano (fresh would be lovely but not essential)
- 100 grams of peas or green beans (from the freezer or fresh if you have them)
- 150 grams frozen cooked prawns
- I added a chopped red pepper as I had one lying around starting to wrinkle (you can add anything you like if you want more veg)
Heat the oil in a decent sized saucepan, my saute pan is seeing a lot of use these days.
Gently fry the onion and garlic until softened but not browned. Add the tomatoes, rice and thyme to the pan and stir. In another saucepan you should have the chicken stock simmering, stir the turmeric in to the stock and then ladle the stock into the rice. You can put about a third of the stock in at a time. Stir the rice well to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. You don’t have to be nearly as vigilant with this as you do with risotto so you can leave it to simmer and prep your veg or pull it out of the freezer as the case may be.
Keep adding the stock and giving the rice a stir until it is nearly cooked or you are nearly out of stock. Have a test nibble of a couple of grains of rice to see how it is. When it is nearly done add the prawns and veg and the last of the stock and stir in and simmer for a few minutes until the veg and prawns are warmed through. Take it off the heat and cover. Paella benefits from being left to rest for five or ten minutes so all the flavours mingle, if you have the patience for that, if not, just eat it!
You see, really not difficult. You can go all swanky with mussels and clams and crayfish and whatnot but this simple version is delicious too.