Paella is our comfort food. Please agree with me if you ever had Paella and it’s your comfort food too. When I saw this Paella photo from Saveur, I fell in love because that is exactly how my dream Paella should look like. Deep dark orange rice coloured by sweet paprika and saffron contrasting with the colour of prawns, calamari and pipis. This dish is like an art that pop right into your eyes when you have your first glance.
My take on making my very own Paella is slightly different. Spanish people might not like it. But that’s how I like it and how I want to eat it. Firstly, I took the head and shell off the prawn because I hate peeling prawns when I chomp on my Paella. I just like to scoop the rice and the seafood right into my mouth continuously without having to peel the prawn. Secondly, because I am a greedy person, I tend to load my Paella with lots of seafood. I just enjoy the feeling of looking at my Paella fully loaded and can never get to an end when I eat. Thirdly, I added chorizo. No particular reason, I just like the taste of chorizo and I want it to be part of my Paella dish and it makes the dish taste more flavourful.
Usually in most recipes, chicken stock or fish stock would be used to make paella. For my version, I am elevating the stock slightly by using prawn heads and shell. Yes, don’t throw the prawn heads and shells away. Chop some garlic, fry the garlic in a pot and toss the prawn shells & heads in it and after add the stock in. The smell is just so indescribably wonderful. All I can tell you is that if you have experienced smelling grilled prawn on barbecue pit, this soup base smells like that. Now, imagine when you add rice to this soup base and the rice will absorb all the goodness. Goodness!
When done, a good paella will have a thin crust formed at the bottom of the pan. This crust is like toasted rice and it adds on to the wonderful complex flavour of Paella.
This recipe is adapted from Saveur website. Click here to access to the recipe.
Below is the recipe I amended according to my liking and taste:
Elevated Soup Stock (makes 3 cups of stock):
- 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
- 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
- Prawn heads and shells from the 300g prawns
- 3 cups of chicken stock
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
Paella (serve 2 to 3 person):
- 20 – 30 strands of saffron threads (grind finely)
- 1/8 cup of hot water (to soak the saffron)
- 1 medium sized onion, chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1/2 of capsicum, chopped
- 1 chorizo sausage, sliced
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- A pinch of sugar
- 1.5 cups of rice ( I use arborio rice)
- 300g of prawns (peeled)
- 1 calamari (sliced into 0.5cm width)
- 20-30 pipis
- For the Elevated Soup stock, heat up your pot and pour in the vegetable oil.
- Put the smashed garlic into the pot and fry for a while. Fry in medium heat only for like 30 seconds. Beware not to brown the garlic. The taste of garlic changes when it get browned.
- Put in the prawn heads and shells. Continue to cook in medium heat for 5 minutes and stir occasionally.
- Pour the chicken stock into the pot. Turn heat to high and cook until the stock is boiling. Turn the heat down to low. Let it boil for 20 minutes.
- Add in salt, ground black pepper and sugar. Cook for another 5 minutes. Test the stock. Adjust the salt and sugar according to your taste.
- After the stock is done, you can start on preparation of the Paella.
- Combine the ground saffron with 1/8 cup of hot boiling water. Cover and let it soak. Set aside.
- Chop the onion, tomato and capsicum. Ah, slice the chorizo too. Thinly.
- Heat up your paella pan in medium heat (in my case, I don’t have a paella pan so I use a normal stainless steel pan but it still yield a good result especially that I get a good crust)
- Pour in the oil. Once the oil is hot, put in onion, tomato and capsicum. Fry for 1 minute. Add in the chorizo. Continue to fry until you see the onion & capsicum turn soft. Add in sweet paprika, salt, ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar. Continue to fry in medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Pour in the stock and also the soaked saffron water. Let it boil.
- When the stock starts to boil, sprinkle the rice evenly onto the stock. DO NOT stir the rice which you sprinkled onto the stock. This will ruined the texture of Paella.
- After you sprinkle the rice, just give the pan a light tap to make sure the rice settles in the stock.
- Let it cook for 15 minutes or so in medium heat.
- Lay the prawns, calamari and pipis on top. Let it continue to cook for 5 minutes.
- Check occasionally by testing the rice texture. It should be a bit hard in the center of the rice. Just like the al-dente in spaghetti.
- Once you get that al-dente texture from the rice. Take the pan off the stove and cover the pan with aluminium foil for 15 minutes. This process allows everything in the pan cooks evenly and settle.