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?
A good pan.
Mine is cast iron and cost a fortune when I indulged myself buying pans for our Rayburn in the UK.
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.
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.
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.
Spring paella (April)
With runner beans, peas, fresh green onions and red onion.