During my latest trip to Scotland, I generously offered to make a paella for my cousins Monz and Marz. They were very enthusiastic, so I got off to a great start with a Youtube video in which a Spanish chef shows how to make a paella for forty guiris.
Easy, I thought. Just have to use the regla de tres (didn´t get my C in O level maths for nothing) – 40 is to 100% what 3 is to x, so multiply 3 by 100, or should I divide it? 3 divided by 100 is, well never mind, I´ll just do it a ojo.
Confident of my forthcoming guesswork, I turned my attention to the ingredients. I spent a whole day getting them, or rather not getting them, since while it was surprisingly easy to find the right kind of rice, arroz bomba, the right kind of seafood was insouciantly chilling out at the bottom of the North Sea.
So, to remedy this, I decided not to use the chicken stock required in the recipe and bought a large, clear plastic bag of fish stock from Marks and Spencer´s. It was flavoured with fennel but I thought what the heck – don´t the Spaniards say that anything at all can go into paella?
So off I went, holding a bunch of flowers in one hand and my large bag of fish stock in the other, a bit like the mortiferous canister clutched by Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men.
Ex-Barlinnie prison inmates scuttled away from me on Shettleston Road. I did my niecely business and was soon back in my cousin´s South Side kitchen to get a-cooking.
The finished dish made it abundantly clear that Scotland is no country for paella. And that I am no cook! It was a flavourless disaster but hecha la paella, buena o mala, hay que ‘comella’ (good or bad it has to be eaten) so we served it up and had it with wine. Although my cousins were kind, I´m sure they couldn´t have enjoyed it much.
Back in Spain, my husband, on hearing of my trials and having wiped the tears of derision off his face with his pinny, offered to make me one.
It was absolutely wonderful (see top photo) so here´s the recipe should any of you men wish to make one for the woman in your life, paella pa ´ella.
The quantities are approximate since no human being has yet gotten an exact recipe out of a Spanish cook and I can provide no information whatsoever on where to get the seafood!
200 gr. clams
200 gr. mussels
200 gr. prawns
200 gr. squid rings
Small stick of celery, finely chopped
100 gr. green beans,
50 gr. peas,
Half a red pepper, finely chopped
Half a green pepper, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 ripe pear tomato, peeled and de-seeded
3 tablespoons tomate triturado (puréed tomato)
A tablespoon of fresh, chopped parsley
2 cloves crushed garlic
300 -400 gr. of paella rice, arroz bomba
A few strands of saffron
Juice of half a lemon
Small tin of pimientos del piquillo en tiras (red pepper strips)
1. Make two quick stocks. Put the clams and the mussels in a small pan with the bay leaf and enough water to cover them. Bring the water gently to the boil and give it a golpe de calor (a quick heat burst) then turn it off. Sieve into a bowl. Put the prawns into the pan, cover with water, bring to the boil, and turn off once they turn pink. Sieve. Mix the two stocks in the bowl. (Keep all the seafood)!
2. Cut the squid rings into bite-sized pieces.
3. Heat up a chorrito (couple of tablespoons) of oil in a big pan. Finely chop the veggies. Add the squid to the pan and then the green beans, peas and red and green peppers. Peel and de-seed the tomato and add it along with 3 tbsp tomate triturado. Let soften for five minutes then add the parsley and garlic.
4. Add the rice and coat well, keeping the heat even. Add the stock HOT, roughly 3 times more liquid to rice, adding a little hot water if necessary. Crush the saffron and add it with the juice of half a lemon (it stops the rice from clumping).
5. Add the seafood except the mussels. Keep on a medium-low heat – it will come slowly to the boil which the rice needs to cook – until most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15-20 minutes. You can stir it if you want, (macho Rammy doesn´t).
6. Arrange the mussels around the top then turn the heat off – an old rule of thumb is that you turn it off when the rice start to “sing.” To me it sounds like a little “chirp”. The rest of the liquid will continue to be absorbed. If you don´t do this you risk burning it – and while a Valencian socarrat or crusty bottom is nice, a burnt paella is not.
6. To finish, decorate it with the strips of pepper and put it on the table to “rest” (reposo). Cover it to keep it warm.
Finally, enjoy it with a glass of wine and a big green salad!
For another of Ramón´s seafood recipes click here.