Spain’s most famous dish, the paella always elicits happy childhood memories for me. On our family’s annual Spanish holiday it was a staple, along with my Mother’s sangria and my Father’s san miguel (or “piss”, as he usually referred to it). Until our recent trip to Barcelona I had considered paella an arduous dish. I had tried recipes by Gordon Ramsey and Simon Hopkinson and although they turned out great, they were time consuming and elaborate, a treat. On the plane journey to Catalunya I began to read a book that I have owned for quite awhile. “My Kitchen In Spain” by Janet Mendel is full of great Spanish recipes and techniques and it was only after reading the technique for paella that I realised how simple a dish it really is.
It actually couldn’t be much simpler. Sweat the vegetables and meat in a little oil for 10 minutes. Add rice, water and saffron (or food colouring if you’re on a budget) and cook for 20 minutes without stirring. Not particularly time consuming, arduous or even elaborate, the paella is now a weekly event in our house. The reason not to stir it is so a crust can develop on the bottom of the pan. It should be crispy but not burnt. With this in mind, finding the exact temperature to cook it at can take a few attempts. The meats of choice in Barcelona were chicken, rabbit and pork (the meat was always on the bone) but you can, of course, use any combination of meat or fish that you like. I have gone with pancetta and chicken here.
Pinch of Saffron
2 tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Onion (finely chopped)
100g Green Beans (chopped)
1/2 Red Pepper (chopped)
75g Pancetta or Streaky Bacon (chopped)
1 Chicken Leg (chopped into 3-4 cm chunks)
1/4 tsp Hot Paprika
150g Paella Rice
300ml Chicken Stock or Water (hot)
1/2 tin of Butter Beans
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
1. Put a few tablespoons of warm water in a bowl and add the saffron. Set aside to infuse.
2. Heat the oil in a paella or frying pan and add the onion, green beans, red pepper and pancetta. Season and cook for 3 minutes before adding the chicken. Cook for 5 minutes, add the paprika and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
3. Add the paella rice and stir for a minute before adding the stock, saffron water (including the saffron strands) and butter beans. Season, stir well, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes without stirring. Serve hot.