Paella Perfection

Last week we blogged on the subject of reducing fats and recognised that as the weather cools and the nights draw in, the desire for comfort food increases to the point almost of being essential.

We have been inundated with requests for healthy comfort food suggestions so we are going to start off with one of our favourites here at Healthy Teacher Toolkit HQ: Paella.

There is no such thing as the perfect paella! At our local Spanish restaurant, the regular paella Sundays are interrupted by the waiters discussing their regional preferences. Paella in Valencia is very different from that from Alicante. It isn’t quite like the famous scene from Fawlty Towers where Manuel berates Terry the chef for his ‘Stinking Cockney eel pie’ but it often sounds quite feisty.

Paella is a great dish for togetherness and teamwork, not only in its eating but also in its preparation. Get family and friends around to measure, chop and slice: your social interaction begins well before supper is ready.

Ingredients

For six portions.

  • One red pepper, prepared as detailed below.
  • One red onion, finely chopped.
  • One clove of garlic, crushed.
  • Six chicken thighs, skin removed and cut into bite size pieces.
  • One teaspoon of sweet pimenton.
  • One chorizo sausage, cut into slices or chunks, depending on personal preference.
  • 250g paella rice.
  • One glass dry white wine.
  • 5ooml chicken or vegetable stock.
  • A pinch of saffron.
  • Four ripe tomatoes roughly chopped.
  • A handful of raw prawns.
  • A handful of frozen peas.
  • Olive oil for cooking, salt and pepper to season.

Method.

  • Firstly prepare the pepper by placing it on a lit gas ring and turning frequently. It will char all over, but this will be removed. If you don’t have a gas hob, the process works under a grill too.paella-1
  • Once the pepper is charred all over, remove with tongs or a fork, place in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to cool.
  • Once cooled the charred skin can be peeled off leaving a perfectly cooked and soft pepper underneath.
  • Remove the stalk and the seeds and chop into 1cm dice.

Once all the other ingredients are prepared we are ready to cook. We have a couple of paella pans, but any wide and flat frying pan will do. You may need a couple of pans depending on your numbers. Paella pans come in a variety of diameters, the largest of which can often be seen at Spanish food markets feeding the multitudes.

  • Place your pan over a low heat and add a glug of olive oil.
  • Once gently bubbling, add the onion and garlic and cook gently so the garlic turns golden and the onion softens. Don’t let the garlic burn.
  • Add the chicken thighs and allow to brown on both sides. Keep the ingredients moving so they don’t stick. paella-2
  • Once the chicken is browned add the pimenton and stir so that it coats the chichen and onion in a lovely orange tone.
  • Add the chorizo and cook for a further five minutes, The chorizo will start to release an orange oil which further colours the dish.paella-3
  • Now add the paella rice. It is important to use the correct rice, which is short grained. Stir well so that the grains are coated by the chorizo oil.paella-4
  • Pour in a glass of white wine, and allow to come to a simmer, then add the stock. Unlike in a risotto all the stock is added at once.
  • Add the saffron, which adds the yellow colour. Don’t be tempted to use turmeric, which has a very different taste. Season with black pepper and a little salt.
  • Make sure the stock simmers gently and stir gently so the rice doesn’t stick or burn.
  • The rice takes about 20 minutes to cook. About five minutes before the end of cooking, add the prawns allowing them to cook through. Add the tomatoes at the same time.
  • After five more minutes, add the frozen peas. paella-5
  • Ensure the stock is absorbed, then serve and enjoy.paella-6
  • Variations include: using mixed seafood instead of prawns; snails for a true Valencian paella; squid or octopus. Vegetables can be varied too: any kind of pepper, broad beans or courgettes. For a vegetarian option, substitute chick peas and any dark coloured bean for the meat ingredients.

We hope you enjoy trying out our paella. Removing chicken skin, using olive oil, and ensuring not too much is used, makes this a healthy option. This is a great social dish on these cold nights, but also in the summer- we’ve cooked it on a very large barbecue in the past. Buen apetito!

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