On special occasions, 18th century Valencians used paelleras (the round, shallow pan paella is traditionally cooked in) to cook rice in the open air of their orchards near lake Albufera. Marsh rat was one of the main ingredients of early paellas, along with eel and butter beans. Paella, in its modern form, evolved in the mid 19th century on the east coast of Spain.
Frustratingly, I usually find myself fresh out of marsh rat and eel. I tend to make the form of mixed Paella that developed as it’s popularity spread and other cultures and regions added their influence to the dish.
This dish is a fabulous dish to make when you have company as it is a case of adding ingredients at various intervals and giving the pan an occasional shake, thus leaving you time to have another vino and enjoy the night.
You do not need to rigidly stick to the recipe I have given. Maybe you have a swamp out the back overrun with marsh rats, alternatively you can add various other meats and seafood and be as extravagant or boring as you like. Take it from the stove to the table in the pan you cooked in, I assure you there will be lots of ooos and ahhhs!
- 1 large chorizo sausage, sliced
- 2 tblsp olive oil
- 4 chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite sized pieces.
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 red onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- Bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 400gm can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 3 cups calasparra rice
- 60o mls warm chicken stock
- pinch saffron threads
- 12 large prawns
- 1/2 cup peas, cooked
- 1 roasted capsicum, cut into strips
- lemon wedges
Heat a paella pan (or large flat bottomed fry pan) over medium-high heat. Fry the chorizo until browned, remove and set aside. Season the chicken pieces, add oil to pan and brown chicken on all sides, remove and set aside. Sear prawns, remove and set aside.
In the same pan, fry the onions, garlic, paprika, oregano and parsley (keeping aside some of the parsley to garnish the final dish). When the onions have softened add the tomatoes and cook until well combined and golden, this is the ‘sofrito’.
Add the rice and stir making sure it is well coated with the sofrito. Pour in stock and add saffron, simmer (gently shaking the pan from time to time) until most of the stock is absorbed and the rice is nearly cooked. Add the chicken and continue to cook until chicken is almost cooked. Add the prawns, these will take approximately 4 or 5 minutes to cook by which time the rice should be ready. Turn up the heat for 30 seconds or so to toast the rice at the bottom of the pan. This is known as ‘socarrat’ and is considered a delicacy in Spain. It would develop on its own if the dish were cooked on an open fire or burner. Remove from the heat and rest, covered with a clean towel for 5 minutes. Garnish with red pepper, peas, parsley and lemon wedges.