Photo by Tara Stevens
The most common mistake people make with paella —certainly the mistake I always made—was to try to cram too much into it.
It’s actually a very frugal dish, the star being the rice with the rest just a flavouring, which could take the form of rabbit, beans and snails as it does in the hinterland around Valencia, or simply the rich black ink of a cuttlefish in the famed arròs negre of the Costa Brava. The main thing is not to overdo the extras, and to cook the rice for 20 minutes max without stirring, to keep the grain whole and tender. Remember, you’re looking for an al dente dish—ideally layered with a good socarrat (the crisp, gooey underside of the paella)—not a risotto.
SEAFOOD PAELLA (SERVES FOUR)
· 3 garlic cloves, sliced
· 1 medium sized white onion, finely chopped
· 1 large tomato, finely chopped
· 1 tsp pimentón
· 1 tsp saffron, lightly toasted and crumbled
· 50g sepia (cuttlefish), uncooked
· 15 raw large prawns
· 1 large handful clams, well washed
· 175g bomba rice
· 750ml fish stock
· 3 tbsp olive oil
Dry the sepia on kitchen towel and sprinkle with salt. Peel the prawns and set aside. Add the shells to the stock, bring it to a boil then let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Sauté the garlic and onion in the oil until sweet smelling and golden. Add the tomato and cook down for another 5 minutes or so. Add the pimentón and saffron, cook until dark, brown and jammy. Cut the sepia and prawns into 1-2cm cubes (size as preferred) and sauté until opaque. Sprinkle just enough rice over the mixture to cover the bottom of the pan. Stir well to flavour the rice, then pour over enough stock to cover the rice by about 2cms. Stir to distribute the ingredients, but do not stir again after this point. Sit on a medium hot stove and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Then add the clams, pushing them into the top of the rice, adding a little more liquid if needed. Cook for another 10 minutes by which time the rice should be al dente and the stock almost fully absorbed (if it’s a little wet on top, but the rice is pock-marked, it’s done). Remove from the heat, cover with a clean tea towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve direct from the pan and with a few lemon wedges if desired.