I actually cooked this traditional Valencian dish a while back but my companions and I were so hungry that I wasn't able to take pictures of it before we devoured what was in the pan. Also, what I cooked before had broccoli which turned out not to be a very good idea. It was tasty but not quite as good as what I just made and took photos of for this recipe entry.
If you cook it right, you (and your guests, if you have guests) will almost certainly be moaning while eating it.
|Paella - the finished product|
If you follow this recipe strictly, granting that this is the only food item eaten for a meal, you will be able to feed:
- 3 regular sized people,
- 2 hungry tall people, or
- 1 very hungry vegan
You will need:
- 1 whole onion (may be large, may be medium, or none—depending on how much you like onions), chopped
- 1 ½ cup of mushrooms, chopped (Mine were shiitake but you may use any kind you like—preferably ones with considerable umbrellas, considerable size and not very long stems.), fresh is best
- 1 cup of pumpkin, roughly chopped (You may use any kind of squash such as zucchini.)
- 1 cup of bell pepper, julienned (Red and yellow are preferred over green.)
- 4 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
- 5 medium sized tomatoes, grated, finely chopped or pulsed to bits in a food processor
- 1 cup of rice (preferably short grain like arborio rice, bomba rice, calasparra rice or those in the Japonica variety that are not very sticky)
- 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme (½ teaspoon if dried)
- 5 leaves of fresh rosemary, ripped to bits (Use only 1 small pinch if it's dried. Be careful not to use too much since rosemary can be a very overpowering herb.)
- a lot of olive oil (Just have a bottle ready as it is added almost arbitrarily.)
- 2 cups of water
- ½ teaspoon of saffron strands
- salt for seasoning
Traditionally, this dish is cooked on a large flat pan over a wood-fuelled fire. This recipe, however, is scaled down to feed 3 people so a considerably big flat frying pan over a conventional stove will do just fine as long as you make absolute certain that there are no Valencian people hanging around nearby. They will scream at you if they catch sight of you not doing it the age-old, time-tested way.
Now, make sure you use proper judgement when cooking this dish. If you're an absolute novice, I recommend that you drag along someone with considerable knowledge to help you because the process is rather intricate and imprecise. However, please note that the order in which the ingredients go into the pan must be abided by.
Let's make vegan paella:
1. Heat your pan and pour in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. You don't have to be precise. You can add more.
2. Maintain medium to medium-low heat and drop in your onions. Sauté for about 30 seconds.
3. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about a minute.
4. Add a couple of small pinches of salt to bring the liquid out of the mushrooms.
5. Add the bell pepper and sauté for another minute.
6. At this stage you will want to add about 2 more tablespoons of olive oil. Don't worry about precision because as a Spanish lady once told me, "You can never go wrong with too much olive oil in a paella."
7. Add the squash and sauté for a minute.
8. Stir in your rosemary and thyme.
9. Add another small pinch of salt and stir the pan for about a minute.
10. Sweep the vegetables to the sides and empty the centre of the pan.
11. Add a teaspoon of olive oil.
12. Drop in your garlic and sauté on its own for 1 minute.
13. Stir everything together to mix.
14. Add in your rice plus 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and stir.
15. Stir continuously for about 4-5 minutes. This is done so the rice absorbs the flavours of the vegetables. Add olive oil (about a tablespoon or 2) if needed.
16. Stir in your tomatoes in thirds for about a minute each.
17. Add in about 2 more tablespoons of olive oil.
18. Add in another pinch of salt and stir continuously for about 3 minutes.
19. Pour in your water. You used a cup of rice so you add 2 cups of water. Your standard measurement for water is twice the volume of rice. First stir in a cup and mix for 2 minutes, and then stir in your second cup.
20. Add in your saffron strands and stir to mix everything well.
21. Stir continuously for 2 minutes and then taste the broth. Season with more salt as needed. Make sure you don't over season as the taste will become more defined when some of the liquid evaporates. However, since most of it will be absorbed by the rice grains, make sure to season well. Use wise judgement (or, if you're a kitchen novice, consult that friend of yours who knows a thing or two about the basics of cooking).
22. Level your paella so that it is distributed evenly throughout the pan. Maintain a medium-low to low fire.
23. Leave it cooking for about 15 minutes (about 7 minutes covered and 8 or more minutes uncovered). Allow a bit more time to cook until the rice is thoroughly done (as in, the grains don't crunch when you bite into them) and the paella is no longer swimming in broth. While cooking, periodically check the bottom by rubbing it gently with a spatula or spoon to be sure it's not burnt. However avoid stirring your pan because you want the paella to settle.
24. Turn off the heat and allow the paella to cool for at least 3 to 5 minutes.
25. Serve on its own or with a drizzle of lemon. I like mine with some chopped fresh coriander.
Note: You know you did it right if the rice caramelises a little at the bottom of the pan without burning. Photo below.
|right after stirring in the Japonica rice|
|halfway done, right before leaving to cook for 15 minutes|
|The encircled parts are some of the areas where the rice caramelised at the bottom of the pan. In Spain, it is called socarrat, and it is said that people would kill to eat this part. Figurative language, of course.|