Friday, 3 February 2012

Paella for one

Paella can seem a pretty daunting prospect for one - those fancy paella pans all look big enough to feed an army and the quantities of ingredients tend to be huge. I don't think I've ever seen a recipe for this Spanish standard for fewer than eight people.

I was once lucky enough to be invited to Sunday lunch by a family in Valencia, the city that is the home of paella, and that was exactly what they dished up. Paella is the sort of food that often gets cooked in front of others - indeed, it practically demands show-off cheffery. Isabella was kind enough to let me help her with some of the preparation, which was fun, as she cooked up a storm in front her guests and I picked up some useful tips.

A true paella valenciana has rabbit as the star meat ingredient, plus snails. More commonly, there will be chicken and various types of seafood, and maybe some chorizo because traditionally paella is about using what you have to hand. 

This recipe actually makes two portions, so you can feed a friend or reheat the leftovers next day. Don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients - this is actually very easy. It helps to do all your chopping before you get the pan on.

What you need:
Olive oil
1 small onion, roughly chopped
A clove of garlic, crushed
A small handful of flatleaf parsley
About 6cm of cooking chorizo, sliced into little rounds
A small handful of leftover chicken, shredded
Paella rice, about a third of a coffee mug
1/2 litre of chicken stock
1 small green pepper, deseeded and sliced
2 small tomatoes, cut into quarters
A tiny pinch of smoked paprika
2-3 tsp tomato purée
A handful of cooked jumbo prawns
Lemon wedges

What to do:
Heat the oil in a heavy sauteuse over a medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic. Separate the parsley leaves from the stalks and set the leaves aside. Chop the stems finely and add to the onion, along with the chorizo (and the fresh chicken, if you're using it). Tip the rice in and stir through so it is thoroughly coated in the oil then let it fry gently for a minute or two.

Pour in the stock and stir everything. Add the pepper and tomatoes, a generous pinch of saffron, the tomato purée and a little freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to low so the liquid is only just bubbling. Now leave it for 20 minutes, only very occasionally stirring it so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.

Chop the parsley leaves finely. Five minutes before the end, stir through half the parsley and the leftover chicken, then tuck the prawns into the top of the paella to heat through. It's ready when the rice is soft and all the stock has been absorbed. Serve it with the rest of the parsley sprinkled on the top and a lemon wedge or two on the side.

Cook's tips:
At a pinch, you can make this almost entirely from store cupboard ingredients, especially if you have a freezer. I keep bags of prawns in my freezer, as well as a bag of mixed seafood - the sort that contains squid, mussels and prawns, all of which can be used in a paella. If you don't have fresh tomatoes, half a tin of chopped tomatoes will do the job - just omit the purée. No peppers? Use sliced frozen ones if you have them, or a couple of peppers from a jar, torn into strips.

Other things you can toss into a paella include other shellfish or seafoods such as baby octopus, pork belly, leftover turkey or game and sliced green beans or broad beans.

If you don't have any leftover chicken use half an uncooked chicken breast.

Risotto rice is an excellent substitute for paella rice.

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