Paella

Summer paella with asparagus (August)

I have learned to cook paella while I have been here. How can you live in Spain and not cook paella?

Tip 1
A good pan.

Mine is cast iron and cost a fortune when I indulged myself buying pans for our Rayburn in the UK.

Tip 2
Find the right rice.

I use a Spanish rice from the Ebro delta. It’s organic and it is redondo (round). It works well but other cheaper rices are just as good. But they need to be for paella.

I made paella a few times in the UK with all manner of things in it. Chicken, rabbit, prawns, fish…. far too many conflicting ingredients. Like a lot of things in Spanish cooking the simpler the better.

So today we had a summer paella. I was lacking imagination and the good thing about it is that it is one-pan cooking so Washing-Up Partner doesn’t moan.

I cheated on the local ingredients. The asparagus is imported. There is a bit of a hungry gap here in summer (hot and dry), so inspiration flags a bit and the asparagus is a nice change.

The fresh onions are local, the garlic is from Málaga, as is the saffron, the tomatoes (not in pic) were from a neighbour, and the basil and parsley are out of the garden.

This is enough for two people for a meal, or four as a side dish/starter/intermediary course. With a bit left over for the dog’s breakfast because he likes rice and veggies.

Fry garlic, onion, (I used leek too), and basil briefly on a low heat.


Then add the asparagus, chopped into small pieces, obviously leaving the tips intact. If the heat is too high add a drop of water.

Otherwise add the rice and fry briefly before adding more water. I use bottled. I also boiled the trimmings of the stalks in bottled water and used that as a vegetable stock. The chickens then get the remaining cooked stalks.

You can use any sort of stock, but because this is based on asparagus I wouldn’t recommend anything too strong or it will detract from the flavour. A very light chicken stock would be the most I would suggest.

I use a mix of a risotto/paella method. That’s partly because the bottled gas here has a fierce heat, so adding cold water occasionally stops the rice burning or sticking. If I put all boiling water in straightaway it would be a disaster. Different fuels need different methods. I don’t use a sofrito ie frying the tomato with the onion. I add it later after the rice and water as I think it gives a cleaner taste.

Saffron. Azafran.
I discovered after a while that Adelina used food colouring which was why her rice was violently yellow. I have no idea whether I can really tell the difference but I snobbily stick to saffron.

I am not very economical with it either. But I can say after trying various methods of trying to impregnate a golden colour into the rice that adding 3 strands to boiling water in a jug does not work for me.

Far better to put a sprinkling into the pan at an early stage of the frying and later on the rice just suddenly turns a sunkissed colour. I don’t really want it to look like I have put in three tablespoons of turmeric, but I want some colour.

Winter paella – using local asparagus

This paella uses the local wild asparagus, setas (large oyster mushrooms), fennel, and locally grown broad beans (February).  Broad beans are a good substitute for peas, although they also work well together.

Food for hungry workers

Paella

Spring paella (April)

With runner beans, peas, fresh green onions and red onion.

12 comments on “Paella

    • Did one the other day and it was virtually the same as the February one – oyster mushrooms/setas, fennel, broad beans, Spanish runner beans and the rest of the clart. (i could have used asparagus but we had it for salad). It was good, but I never cook it in Gibraltar, only in Spain. I eat totally differently in the two places.

      I think one of the reasons it is easier to cook here is the lifestyle (women slaving over hot stoves all day), the fast turnover of rice, and in my area, the pretty fresh veg. Even though Spaniards use frozen peas, I use whatever fresh veg are available.

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    • I’m sure prawns would go fine, you just need to choose the accompanying veg carefully. So peas and/or asparagus would work, as would green beans, but not broad beans. I’ll probably be making one next week, depending on what veg are kicking around in Spain.

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        • Terrible frozen :( My neighbour gave me a load that they’d got from a relative and there were so many that she podded them and froze them, and then gave some to me. Shame she didn’t give them to me. I used Aguadulce. There are plenty of pix of them on the blog. Reliable, good germination and pretty good cropping.

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          • Thanks for this, I’m thinking they’d be pretty easy to grow. I’ve got a composter and a big box planter and I plant a few bits amongst the natives in the garden which seems give them a better chance against pests. We don’t seem to get slugs here (praise the Lord!!) but I do get a lot of white fly and citrus miner issues. I try to use enviro friendly sprays but every so often I wage nuclear level war on the garden with a cocktail of chemicals that wipes them out but leaves the veg inedible!

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          • I’ve had success with beans (scarlet runners in UK, broad in Spain) but so far peas have eluded me. I reckon it’s all in the variety which is why I can recommend Aquadulce. I garden organically so no sprays. The nearest I get is a drop of env friendly washing up liquid on any pests. I also garden very simply. Add soil with generous helpings of chicken shit, chuck in seeds, cover, sit back and wait to see what happens. We get snails. Sometimes I pick them out and throw them over the wall. Sometimes I can’t be bothered. It’s true what they say, if you build up a natural environment, the garden looks after itself :)

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  1. I tried paella several times ….over a decade ago when I was still eating lots of rice. I just used long grain white rice..lazy me. It was just seafood…mussels, shrimp and squid. I didn’t use saffron since I didn’t know how to use it (and recipe didn’t have it). Very North Americanized. But I enjoyed it….even if not totally authentic.

    I made an exception to have a lot of paella each of the 2 times I tried it. Unfortunately maybe the broth was to salty or something for lst place. Anyway, it was still fine. Just meant more wine and mineral water.

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