Paella has a wow factor in its presentation. All the seafood arranged nicely on top of the rice never fails to impress and evoke anticipation of the tastes soon to be savoured. A well cooked paella never disappoints. Both the richly flavoured rice and the assortment of seafood provides well over the expected gustatory delights.
This is an easy and fool proof recipe that will give you a perfect paella each time. All the ingredients contribute to the success of the dish, so choose them well. You can vary the assortment and quantity of the toppings depending on what you like or what you have on hand. It is like a pizza with rice as the base.
You can throw in anything you like. The only thing you have to measure exactly is the rice and the liquid. The ratio is 1 cup of rice to 1 1/4 cup of stock. This will result to a perfectly cooked rice. A good quality stock is vital to this dish as it provides the flavour for the rice.
I used a good homemade fish stock using fish bones and all the trimmings from the squid plus bouquet garni, onions and carrots. You can also add prawn shells, if you have any. I always save the shells from my prawns when I peel them and stash them in the freezer. I used long grain rice instead of paella rice because I find that it absorbs all the flavours better and cooks more evenly. I pre-cooked the dish on the stove top and finished it in the oven.
This recipe will happily serve 6-8 people.
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, cubed
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 c. uncooked long grain rice
2 1/2 c. rich fish stock
1 pinch of saffron or 1 tsp. kasubha (wild saffron)
1/2 sweet red pepper, cut into squares
12-20 whole shell on prawns
5 whole squids cut into 1" wide pieces
1/2 c. frozen green peas, blanched
Pre-heat the oven to 350º F/ 180º C.
Boil some of the stock and use to parboil the mussels just until it opens. Drain. Add the mussel liquid back to the stock. This is the exact amount (2 1/2 c.) you'll need to cook the rice.
Wash the rice and drain.
In a clean paella pan or ordinary pan, fry the prawns in 3 tbsps. of olive oil on medium high heat until the shells become a bright orange colour. Transfer to a dish and set aside.
Fry the squid in the same pan briefly just until it turns opaque. Transfer to a dish.
In the same pan, saute the garlic for 2 minutes. Add the rice, tomato paste and the saffron and stir well until the grains are coated with oil.
Add the sweet pepper and the 2 1/2 c. of stock. Stir, then bring to a boil. Taste and adjust the seasonings. The liquid should be a little over salted as it will be absorbed by the rice. Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, uncover, add the green peas, stir and fluff up the rice. Arrange the prawns, squid and mussels decoratively on top. If there are juices from the seafood, drizzle them over the rice. Cover with the foil again and bake for another 5 minutes.
Take out of the oven, keeping the cover on, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with lemon wedges.
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