We are in Spain for a few days, so the kids are now cooking with their granny and various aunts, all of whom cook much better than me. With so many people in the kitchen the kids are not doing much, but at least they are learning by watching while they mess around.
We will have an 'all Spanish theme' for the days to come and we thought the best way to start this is with a paella. I never cook paella, but it is one of my mother's signature dishes.
There are many ways to prepare paella and you can try various combinations that should all work well (all chicken; all vegetable, all fish, fish and meat, fish and chicken, all chicken, squid and veggies...). Two main things to avoid though: do not cover the paella with herbs (nobody does this in Spain); and never, just never, put chorizo in the paella (I cannot explain why, but it is simply not right)
You will need:
one onion diced
half a green pepper and a red pepper diced
two gloves of garlic ( unpeeled)
1/2 tomato (preferably peeled) diced
100 gr Spanish ham diced into small cubes
a handful of frozen peas
1 squid (or 6-7 frozen squid rings) chopped into small bits
1 mussel per person
1 slice of chewy fish (tuna, conger or monkfish) chopped into cubes
12 raw prawns
1/2 tsp parsley chopped thinly
500 gr rice (we normally use a handful of rice per person and one more for the pan). The rice should be round, not long. In some Spanish shops you can find Calasparra rice - this is the 'pata negra' of the rices.
1 bay leave
saffron (three to five stems)
A bill shallow pan or paella dish
Boil water ( 2 glasses) in a pan, add the clams, cover the pan with a lid and let it all boil for just a minute. Take the pan off the heat, sieve the water through a colander and reserve it. Discard any clams that have not opened up. Repeat the same process with the mussles.
Peel the prawns and boil the fish bone and the shells of the prawns for around 10-15 minutes. Sieve the water and reserve it. Discard the fish-bone and the shells.
Cover the pan in olive oil (1 cm depth more or less) and heat it (medium heat). Fry the onion, peppers, tomato and garlic (in this order) for 5 minutes. Then add the ham, the parsley and the bay leave, reduce the heat and and keep cooking it for another 5-7 minutes until the whole things becomes soft, slightly translucent and gooey. Increase the heat to medium, add the squid and then the fish and keep cooking it all for another 5 minutes. Finally add the prawns, the peas and half a lemon (whole, not diced). Keep frying it until the prawns take a coral colour and the lemon gets brownish.
Then add the rice and the salt and move it all a little bit with a spoon. After a couple of minutes (when the rice starts getting translucent) add the water of the clams and the fish bone and shells. Dissolve the saffron into half a glass of boiling water and add it to the pan. You should end up with 1 cm of water on top of the rice, so add more water if needed until you reach this amount. Let it all bubble and cook for 18-20 minutes. If you wish you can do this last step in the oven (preheated at 200 degrees). As soon as you add the water to the rice you should not touch the rice anymore or you will end up with a sticky mess rather than fluffy rice.
Five to eight minutes before you take the pan off the heat add the clams and the mussels (see picture below).
Take the dish off the heat, cover with a clean cloth and let it rest for 2-3 minutes. The rice should be a bit 'al dente'. Serve immediately.