During the centuries following the introduction of rice to Spain, labourers of Valencia would use the Paella pan to cook rice, with what ever ingredients were readily available in the countryside.. tomatoes, onions, snails and on special occasions duck and rabbit were used. Only those better off, would be able to afford to use chicken. This Valencian dish became more widely known and by the nineteenth century "Paella Valenciana" had established itself.
In Spain today, the whole family would either march off to a restaurant to eat paella, or cook it themselves with everyone giving a help in hand, it all becomes a mixture of party, ceremony and debate or rather an arguement between the self acclaimed master paella cooks, who are all convinced they know the best way to make it!
Paella is still a very popular in Spain today, with the introduction of fresh shellfish such as mussels, squid, cigalas and langostionos, it has become a more elaborate dish. One of the main appeals to the Spanish of Paella, is it can be cooked in large quantities and will still taste good later that day and even the next day, which is a good thing as making a good Paella can be a laborious task.
So here is my take on "Paella" and of course with my love of shellfish, it includes many jewels of the sea.
600gr Mahatma Valencia rice(or just short grain/Pearl rice)
500gr Almejas(baby clams)
500gr Large prawns.
12 Fresh Mussels.
4 Blanched, peeled and chopped Tomatoes.
1 Medium Chopped Onion
1 Green Chopped Pepper.
2 Red Chopped Pepper.
150gr Cannelini Beans.
150gr Green beans.
4 Cloves Garlic.
Sea salt to taste.
1/2 Cup of Extra virgen olive oil.
Approx. 800ml Water.
A newspaper(will all become clear at the end)
Mussels: Wash the mussels removing the beards, throw away any that do not close when you place them in water.
Fresh Squid: Peel off the outer dark skin, pull out the insides, cut the tentacles from the head and set the tentacles to one side. Discard head and ink sack. Pull out the clear plastic like cartlidge and discard. cut into rings.
Baby Clams: Wash in water, then place in a bowl with some salt to draw out the sand. Discard any that are open.
Prawns: Set aside 6 prawns to keep whole, peel the rest, keeping the shells and heads to place in the 800ml of water and boil for 10 mins, set to one side.
Garlic: Puré the garlic, parsley and saffron in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of sea salt.
Tomatoes: Bring a small pan of oil to the boil, Cut out the cores from the tops of the tomatoes, cut a cross into the bottoms and place in the water for a 15 seconds remove and place in cold water, they will now peel easlily.
Heat the olive oil in a paella pan(or large frying pan), add chopped onion and peppers and fry gently for 4-5 mins, then add the chopped tomatoes and squid(including tenacles)and fry on a low heat for 8 mins.
Add the rice and stir well making sure it's thoroughly coated in oil, add the stock (you set aside earlier made with the prawn shells), clams and the garlic/saffron and parsley paste and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for approx 10 mins. add the prawns, peas and beans and stir(Check to see if it needs more salt). Arrange the mussels and the 6 whole prawns nicely on top, cover simmer for a further 10 mins, checking that it has enough water, add water if required but shake the pan by the handles rather than stirring. Continue to simmer until the rice is cooked, remove from heat cover with newspaper pages and let stand for a further 10 mins. Your Paella is now ready, serve with wedges of lemon(paella is great with lemon juice), a bowl of freshly made alioli and crusty baguette.