Paëlla “comme à la maison”

Gambas and paella for four

This is not a dish, it’s an event- and be prepared to take time over it even though this is a ‘quick’ version of mine and I have made it all under an hour several times. But some dishes taste better when they take longer… Choose your day.

Ingredients list: This will serve 6 to 8 people

  • Red and green peppers, 4
  • Green beans, 100g
  • 3 or 4 artichoke hearts
  • a handful of garden peas
  • Garlic cloves, 3
  • Olive oil, 100ml max
  • Diced pork or chicken, 1 kg (mix of drumsticks, oyster thighs…)
  • Mussels and shrimps, one bowl – add a few squid rings if you can
  • Rice, 500g
  • Spicy chorizo, to decorate

For the tomato sauce:

  • Garlic cloves, 6
  • Chilli paste or Harissa, 1 Tsp
  • Tomato paste, 4 Tbsp
  • Big tomatoes,8
  • Saffron, a pinch
  • Water 1L 500ml maximum
  • olive oil 100ml
    salt and pepper to taste

  • Lemons, quartered to decorate the dish

First cut up the peppers in large strips and fry in olive oil until soft. Remove the skin when cool.

Fry the green beans in oil and reserve.

Prepare the artichokes and fry the hearts. You can use canned hearts if easier.

 Tomato sauce:

Fry the chopped garlic in the same frying pan, with the chilli paste and a generous part of the olive oil; add the tomato paste and the chopped fresh tomatoes. I remove their skin first by dipping them in boiling water but you can skip that. Add the saffron strands by crushing them in between your fingers and let it simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Reserve.

 Now, using a large, flat, paella dish or similar, fry some garlic and the meat in a generous amount of oil until brown. Add the tomato sauce and half the water and when the liquid is bubbling up, throw the rice in as a scatter, making sure you cover all of the dish with it but never with too thick a layer.   You have to have one part rice to 3 parts water eventually, so keep track of how much you are using!

Throw in the garden peas, fresh or frozen and add some oil- if there is any left. Let it simmer for 1/2hour. Try not to stir the rice at this point but just keep shaking the pan and move the rice up with a wooden spatula if you need to, to get the stock moving around. Add water or oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper- to taste. It will need about 30 minutes to cook through but keep checking so the bottom does not burn and the rice is kept moist. The proper paella stand will have several rings of flames so the dish is cooked evenly but you might have to cheat and move the rice about to achieve the same result on the stove…

10 minutes before the end of the cooking, add the seafood, the chorizo and the fried vegetables on the top of the cooked rice. If using large gambas (but not shrimps!), I pre cook them on a “plancha” or cast iron pan before putting them in. Finish the cooking by raising the heat for the remaining 10 minutes and cover with some foil to let it steep for another 10 minutes before you serve. Check the seasoning and serve with chunks of lemon to squeeze over each plate.

This for me is comfort food: a wonderful party dish for sharing with family and friends. When I am making it I feel incredibly joyous, as if I was connecting with a long line of women from the family, passing on the knowledge…

There is never enough and there is always enough paella for however big the party is – this dish is pure magic. These proportions will serve 6 to 10 people of varying appetites.

The version in the photo is a smaller version and just with gambas. More chic dinner than family party but just as good.


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