When most of us think about paella and what’s in it, we think rice with seafood and perhaps pieces of chicken and chorizo cooked in a pan of the same name. With a little reading I found that Valencians claim that they invented the dish and according to traditionalists their version is the only one that can be called paella. An authentic Valencian paella contains short grain rice, rabbit (and sometimes chicken or duck), maybe some sausage, snails, tomatoes and garlic and perhaps green beans, artichokes or butter beans.
Having always made the usual version, last week I really wanted to try an original Valencian version. However I couldn’t quickly find some rabbit so came up with the following hearty paella which is great as a winter lunch or dinner. With these quantities my paella pan ended up very full – I think I over did it a bit!!
- Ingredients (for 4-6)
- 4-5 chicken thighs, skinned and boned and each cut into 4 pieces
- 3 small Agria potatoes, peeled and cut each into 8 small wedges
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 6-7 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 whole head of garlic
- 1 red pepper, cored, de-seeded and roughly diced
- 150-200g green beans, tailed and cut in half
- Handful of frozen peas
- 3 tomatoes, cored and quartered
- 1½ tsps sweet smoked paprika
- Good pinch of saffron, soaked in a little of the hot stock
- Good pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 – 1½ cups Bomba rice
- 1 tin of cherry tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
- 4-5 cups of hot chicken stock (may need more)
- 2 -3 smoked sausages each cut into 4 pieces
- Meatballs (recipe follows)
- Sprig of rosemary, broken into 2-3 pieces
- 4-5 tbsps finely chopped parsley
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Place the chicken, potatoes, and peppers in a bowl and rub with ½ tsp of the paprika and salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat some olive oil in the paella pan and quickly brown the smoked sausage pieces. Remove. Make sure the pan is hot and then very quickly sear the tomato quarters on each side. Also set those aside.
If necessary more oil to the pan then brown the chicken pieces, potatoes and pepper pieces. This will take a few minutes. When brown, push these to the sides and add more oil to the centre of the pan, add the onion and cook till it softens. Stir in the crushed garlic, rest of the paprika and cayenne pepper. Next add the tin of tomatoes. Stir everything together and simmer for a few minutes until the tomatoes reduce a little. Return the sausage to the pan.
Add the rice to the paella pan and stir. Pour in about 3 cups of the hot stock and add the saffron. Taste and season with pepper and salt. Also stir in the parsley and place the rosemary on top. Bring the pan back to a simmer and place the whole head of garlic in the middle of the pan amongst all the other ingredients. Cook for about 15-20 minutes shaking the pan occasionally if it doesn’t seem to be cooking evenly. Don’t stir.
Gently press the meatballs, peas and tomato quarters into the rice. It still needs to be a bit soupy at this stage so add more stock if necessary.
Cook for another few minutes. Just before the rice is ready put the paella pan into the oven to finish off the cooking. Add a little more stock if it seems too dry. The edges should be a bit crunchy and the rice softer in the middle of the pan. (It isn’t usual to put a paella in the oven but I did this as my pan was so full and I wanted to even it out).
When you think it’s done, remove from the oven, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Uncover and let it stand for another 3-5 minutes before serving.
Note – Stir the rice into the paella once when you add it but never stir it again. Also Bomba rice absorbs more than 3 times its weight in liquid so don’t be afraid to keep adding stock if it seems too dry. If using short grain rice other than Bomba reduce the amount of stock you use.
1-2 slices of bread, crusts removed, soaked in water for a minute, drained, squeezed and crumbled
180g beef or pork mince
120-150g pork sausage -meat removed from the casings of 2-3 Cumberland sausages
1 tsp sweet paprika (not smoked)
½ tsp Herbes de Provence
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsps pinenuts
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
With your hands gently combine all the ingredients. Oil your hands and make meatballs about 3cms round. Place them on baking paper on an oven tray. Bake in a moderate oven for 10-12 minutes till they are a little brown and firm to touch. Turn them if necessary.
Shopping List from La Cigale French Market Stallholders
Chicken – Diedre Wild Game
Cumberland pork sausage and smoked sausage – Marty of Bentru
Beef mince – Pleased to Meat You
Agria potatoes, onion, green beans, parsley, rosemary, garlic – Jason, Your Heartland Green Grocer and Fresh Gardens
Tomatoes and red peppers – Eureka Gardens, Your Heartland Greengrocer
Pinenuts – Turkish Bazaar
Stock – Simon Gault
Egg – The Green Egg Co
Paella pan, Bomba rice, sweet smoked paprika, saffron, cherry tomatoes, Herbes de Provence – La Cigale