Arroz Campero - Paella

Spanish Paella Recipe

Curiously enough, this most Spanish of all dishes, which is practically a byword for “Spanishness”, is neither Spanish, nor is it known as “paella” here in Spain! The original recipe is lost in the mists of time, but scholars now believe that the dish was brought to Iberia by the Phoenicians, long before the birth of Christ.

If you wish to discuss paella with a Spaniard, please refer to it as “arroz” (rice), because that’s the name by which we know it. Though the most famous version hales from Valencia, paella is regarded as a local specialty in just about every corner of Spain.

Par excellence, paella is the dish with a million variants. Every village, every household, has its own version. The recipe I’m giving you here should be regarded as a starting-point, from which you can go on, with a little practice, to develop your very own version.

As a cultural footnote, I can’t recommend strongly enough that you get out and about during the Andalucian summer, and find remote villages where the locals are celebrating their own “feria”. This is a three or four-day street party in honor of the local saint (funny how they always seem to choose saints whose feasts fall in the summer!)

More likely than not, if you get there in the early afternoon, you will arrive in time for the serving of the giant paella. This will have been cooking in the open air since dawn, in a metal dish the size of a decent lifeboat, stirred with spoons reminiscent of wooden paddles. It is always absolutely delicious, and you’ll definitely be invited to share it, guaranteed free of charge!

Ahorre en

Ingredients (serves 6)
800 grams (30 oz) of chicken meat, cut in cubes
150 grams (5 oz) of peas
200 grams (7 oz) of diced squid
300 grams (11 oz) of prawns
pieces of chorizo (spicy sausage)
600 grams (22 oz) of rice
200 grams (7 oz) of pork, cut in cubes
500 grams (18 oz) of shellfish (“almejas”)
one litre (pint and a half) of caldo *
fresh lemons
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
10 strands of saffron
half a cup of olive oil
2 red peppers
fresh parsley, to taste

* “caldo” is the stock of chicken, seafood or vegetables

Heat up the olive oil in a frying-pan, and fry the chicken, pork and squid until the meat has browned nicely. Now place these ingredients in a large casserole dish, and pour the caldo over them. This mixture can now cook gently, until the meat is tender. Meanwhile, using the same oil, fry up the onion, peppers and garlic, with the parsley, chopped very fine, added last.

Once the onion has turned glassy, you can add the chorizo and peas.

One trick I learned from my grandmother is to cook the shellfish quickly in water, as this rids them of sand.

Now add everything, included the peeled prawns, to the casserole dish. This is the point at which the rice goes in. Be sure to add twice as much caldo, by volume, as rice. As a child it was my job to grind the saffron in a pestle and mortar, together with some lemon juice and salt, but you can add these ingredients directly if you prefer.

Cover the dish and allow it to simmer. This is where your skill as a cook comes to the fore: the paella must be watched carefully now, as the liquor is gradually absorbed by the rice. You may wish to add a little water as you go along, to avoid premature drying.

It is the culinary equivalent of a white-knuckle ride, as you wait for the exact moment when the balance of absorption is perfect, and the dish is ready to serve! Be sure to squeeze plenty of fresh lemon juice over the final result.
¡Buen provecho!

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