Paella ...

My husband has come out to join us for Easter. He flew in yesterday morning. We've missed him, so it's great that we're all back together again. And to celebrate I made him a paella. It's his favourite food.

Over here in Catalonia the seafood paella seems to be the equivalent of our Sunday Roast: the special meal that people make an occasion of eating together. When I go to our friends' houses this is the traditional favourite for a long, lazy Sunday lunch with everyone gathered around the table - al fresco, if the weather's behaving itself - chatting, putting the world to rights and enjoying the food and the good company.

Here's how I make this wonderful dish. It's really not that complicated.


OK! Let's start with the ingredients that I used yesterday.

Selection of sea food: I used this dish of prawns, langoustines, squid rings, clams and mussels for the three of us. With this selection we had three or four of everything mixed in with our rice.
A large onion, finely chopped
3 medium or 2 large tomatoes finely chopped
240 g of paella rice (short-grained rice, similar to risotto rice - in fact use risotto rice if you can't find paella rice). I allow 80 g of rice per person.
A few cloves of sliced garlic
1 litre of tasty stock. In England I'd use a good chicken stock made with the bones of a couple of roast chickens, a couple of carrots, a leek, an onion and two or three sticks of celery with all the lovely celery leaves from whatever celery I had in the fridge. Over here in Spain they sell fabulous ready-made caldo - stock - in cartons in the supermarket. The one I used yesterday was Caldo Casero de Escudella, which is my all-time favourite Spanish stock. It's essentially a chicken stock but one that has been made with vegetables, ham and chick peas and it adds another level of flavour to the paella.
Spices: over here in Spain I use a sachet of Carmencita's paella spice mix, but back in England I'd add a few strands of safron (soaked in a couple of tablespoonfuls of warm water), a half teaspoon of sweet paprika, a good pinch of ground cloves and a few twists of black pepper from the pepper mill.
Salt to taste


Now here's what you need to do:

First up: the shell fish. You need to de-beard the mussels, and wash them with the clams in fresh water. Then I leave them on the side in a bowl of fresh water. De-vein your prawns, removing the little black vein that runs down their back, and leave to one side.

Put the onions in the paella pan with some olive oil (if you don't have one a big frying pan with a lid will work just fine) and cook over a low heat for a few minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes more. Then add the garlic. This is called a sofrito in Spanish, and is the base from which any number of Spanish dishes are made.

Rinse your rice under running water, and add to the sofrito of tomato, onion and garlic. Stir so that the rice is evenly distributed. Add the spices, and stir some more, allowing the heat to release some of their wonderful aromas. Now add the stock, a little at a time, not all in one go. Allow the rice to cook slowly and gently, stirring from time to time to make sure that it doesn't stick. The technique here is similar to making a risotto: add enough liquid to keep things moving on the pan but not enough to flood it. Keep a careful eye, and add more as required.

While my rice is cooking I fry the squid, prawns and langoustines in another frying pan and then set them to one side on some kitchen paper when they're done.

When the rice is almost ready add the cooked prawns and langoustines to the paella pan, along with the mussels and clams. Put the lid on, reduce the heat to as low a setting as possible and leave for a few minutes until the shell fish have opened. I use one of those metal diffusers on my gas burner to moderate the temperature below the lowest gas setting.

When your shell fish have opened you're good to go. Serve up with quarters of lemon and enjoy!

And there's one little chap who's a big fan of my cooking. He sat quietly in the corner watching all my work in the kitchen, sniffing the air appreciatively:

Wishing you a very Happy Easter!

All the best,

Bonny x