The paella has to be one of Spain's most famous dishes. It is a rice dish cooked in a large shallow pan with seafood, vegetables, herbs and spices - the most important being saffron which gives the rice that lovely golden colour. When people think of paella, they almost always imagine the seafood variety although traditionally it was made with rabbit, chicken and pork. The dish originated from the region of Valencia where it was cooked by the men who worked in the countryside. They set a large pealla pan over a wood fire and used whatever ingredients were to hand - meat, rice and vegetables.
The dish has hardly changed over the years although there are many different recipes and variations. The following recipe is for a simple seafood version.
You will need (serves 8)
half kilo mussels
half kilo cockles or clams
half kilo squid
2 swordfish steaks
half kilo fresh prawns
three ripe tomatoes
one red pepper
one green pepper
handful fresh parsley
four cloves garlic
four stands saffron
1 kilo paella rice (short grain)
3-4 pints fish or chicken stock
cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
How to cook
1. prepare the vegetables - The peppers, onion garlic and tomatoes should be diced into very small pieces.
2. Prepare the seafood - Clean the mussels and cockles. Remove the bone from the squid and slice into rings. Cut the swordfish into bitesized chunks.
3. In a large paella pan, heat the olive oil and then add the onion, garlic, peppers and tomatoes.
4. Cook on a moderate heat until the vegetables begin to soften but do not allow them to brown.
5. Add the squid and swordfish to the pan and cook for a few minutes, then reduce the heat.
6. Meanwhile, steam the cockles and mussels until they are just beginning to open, Remove them from the heat and set aside.
7. Add the rice to the paella pan, turn up the heat and stir the rice well allowing it to mix with the fish and become coated with the oil. Let the rice cook for 3-4 minutes.
8. Slowly add the fish stock to the rice, stiring gently. Cook on a high heat for five minutes then reduce the heat.
9. In a mortar, bash the saffron strands with a little salt and the parsley, add a spoonful of water and mix well.
10. Add the saffron and parsley to the paella pan and mix well so it is evenly distributed.
11. Allow to cook for 10 minutes stirring only occasionally.
12. Go back to the mussels and open the shells discarding the half without the mussel in.
13. Add the prawns and cockels to the dish and cook for a further 5 minutes.
14. When the rice has soaked up the stock, turn off the heat and add the mussels.
15. Cover the dish with foil and allow the paella to rest for a few minutes.
16. Remove the foil, decorate with slices of lime or lemon and serve.