Contrary to popular belief, Paella was not always fish-based. Inland, the basic ingredients included meat, vegetables, rice and olive oil – traditionally people used any meat they had available. In coastal areas, however, seafood was often used, as it was more freely available than meat. In other areas, duck, rabbit and snails were commonly used, making many variations to the basic dish very common.
When looking through books and blogs for Paella recipes I had to remind myself that Paella is in fact a simple dish and doesn’t need to be over analysed to be tasty. You just need three simple things: fresh ingredients, plentiful wine, and good company! My recipe is a bit of a simplified composite of every Paella recipe I have read and/or attempted. As I said one doesn’t need an overload of ingredients and fiddly techniques to make this flavoursome dish. After all farm workers in Spain used to cook their Paella over an open fire, using fresh ingredients on hand and ate it straight out of the pot with wooden spoon!
I’ve focused my ingredients on Sustainable Seafood and have stuck to fish, mussels, calamari and Chorizo (for a little zing).
1kg sustainable fish, I used Panga and Angelfish (Gurnard, Yellowtail, Tuna and Dorado would all work well)
1kg fresh or frozen (local) ½ shell mussels
500g calamari – try to find locally caught calamari
1 Chorizo, sliced – I used Richard Bosmans Chorizo
3 onions, finely chopped
3 red peppers, diced
6 gloves garlic, crushed
2 tins peeled tomatoes
1 cup white wine
A few strands of saffron. I got mine from Onderstuen Handelaars who trade every Saturday at the Biscuit Mill and have a shop at the Salt River market
± 1.5l chicken or fish stock
2 cups rice
- Clean mussels and remove the beard.
- Steam in wine and a little of the garlic until they open, about 4 minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open.
- Strain the mussels reserving the liquid.
- Season fish and calamari.
- Sear calamari in a little hot oil. Do not overload your pan, sear in three batches. The calamari takes about 30 seconds so you’ll need to work quickly.
- Fry fish on a medium heat, until sealed. The fish doesn’t have to cook through, just seal the pieces.
- Pour the reserved cooking liquid from the mussels into a jug; add stock until you have 1.5lt of liquid.
- Add a few strands of saffron to hot stock
- Heat a little olive oil in a large pan.
- Fry onions until soft, at least 10 minutes.
- Add the red peppers and garlic fry for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the tinned tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes.
- Add the rice and 1lt of the stock, stir to combine.
- Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes until the rice is cooked. Add more stock if necessary but do not stir the Paella.
- Add all your seafood, carefully mixing into the rice.
- Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
Serve with a slice of lemon, and plenty of good white wine!