A pan of Seafood Paella

How to make the best Paella de marisco

Like many recipes, the following for an authentic paella de marisco, may at first glance seem pretty daunting, please just keep in mind it is basically rice. I love rice and it is very easy to cook if you follow some simple rules. The principle behind making a good paella de marisco is very simple one, much like a risotto, you want to drive as many of the flavours from the stock and other ingredients into the rice, but unlike a risotto, you do not stir during the entire duration of cooking. There is a myriad of varieties of paella and a huge number of ingredients that go into different regional recipes, some call for chicken, rabbit or snails.  This is my recipe is for a great, authentic paella de marisco or seafood paella, packed with tasty mussels and prawns and with a rich, full flavour from the garlic, Chorizo and smoked paprika.

A pan of Seafood Paella

A large Seafood Paella

It is really important when making your paella de marisco to use the right rice, many Spanish people use a short grain variety called Bahia, grown in South & South-eastern Spain. It requires around two times its own volume in cooking liquor. For that extra special paella, there is a variety of rice called Bomba – this is a slow growing rice that absorbs three times its own volume when cooked without falling apart. As paella is primarily about the flavours of the stock being absorbed into the rice this is a particularly excellent variety, although it can be quite expensive. About a 100g of rice per person Bomba or standard paella rice will give a good main-course size portion, which means 1Kg of rice will make about a 10 person paella

Your paella pan, the name paella is a Catalan derivative of an old French word for pan, should be a sturdy and made of polished steel, to care for it follow the technique in my early post for looking after your wok or any cast iron pan. The reason there are so many different sizes of paella pan is that it is important not to create a paella that is too deep. Your final paella needs to be a “dry” rice and having the dish too full will not allow any excess cooking liquor to evaporate out once cooked. As a basic rule of thumb, a paella should not be deeper than the rivets for the handles on the paella pans. Traditionally paella is cooked over an open fire as you may have seen in Spanish fiestas or festivals. The way to achieve an authentic paella is to allow me to introduce Sofrito and Socorat.

The Sofrito and the Socorat

The Sofrito and the Socorat are not characters or events in Don Quixote. They are the key to you making an outstanding classic paella de marisco . The sofrito is a fried tomato paste, do not worry if you don’t like tomato – you will never know it’s there. It adds a rich sweet note to the finished paella. The socorat is perhaps the most highly prized part of a paella. It is the dark caramalised rice that sticks to the bottom of the pan.

Paella de marisco or Seafood paella

Paella de marisco


Seafood Paella – serves 4 to 6 

200 gr Monkfish Fillet

150 gr Squid

125 gr good quality Smoked Chorizo Sausage, very finely diced

12 Prawns, the bigger the better, peeled and de-veined

4 King Prawns or Gambas , as big or bigger than the prawns

500 gr approximately Mussels, washed and scrubbed

Sweet Paprika (Pimentón Dulce)

100 gr cooked Butter Beans

2 Red Peppers, thinly sliced

Saffron

Paella Rice, one cupful per person

Chicken or Fish Stock approximately twice as much as the rice

1 large Spanish onion, peeled and very finely chopped

4 cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely chopped

1 small tin of chopped Tomatoes

Peas (as many as you like)

A glass of good dry White Wine

Good quality Olive Oil

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped Parsley

A large 6 person Paella pan

In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan place the diced chorizo sausage and generously cover with olive oil, heat until the oil just starts to bubble then turn down to lowest setting and keep on the lowest possible simmer for thirty minutes. Be careful not to have the sausage on a high heat and burn the chorizo, the aim is to slowly confit the meat in the oil to release the delicious flavours. Remove from heat and cool, then store in airtight container in the fridge. This can be made up to a week ahead of time. This braised chorizo is great gently re-heated in stews, casseroles, with chicken, as a garnish to monkfish, sea bass and oysters. As with many recipes, some people are probably shaking their heads at the addition of chorizo ( They don’t do that in Spain you know ) to a seafood paella but once you smell the heavily flavoured oil sizzling in your pan I think you will be convinced.

Score and cut the squid into cubes about two centimetres each and then slice the monkfish fillet into finger thick escallops. Heat a generous serving spoon of the flavoured chorizo oil in the paella pan, when the oil is smoking add the prawns and crayfish, sauté for a minute or two then remove and put to one side. Next, put the squid in the pan and fry until light golden brown. Remove and add to the prawns.

For the sofrito

In a little further oil gently sauté the onion for five minutes without colouring. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes. Turn up the heat and cook the tomatoes with the onion until it reduced into a very thick dark red paste. Stir continuously to prevent the sofrito from sticking and burning, but reduce it right down.
Add the garlic, saffron, and paprika and stir everything around before adding the rice. Pour in the fish stock, wine, pepper slices, around a ½ teaspoon of salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper and bring it up to the boil and simmer. After ten minutes of cooking add the butter beans, peas, prawns, the crayfish and the mussels. Cook for an extra five minutes until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Occasionally gently shake the pan to prevent the large ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pan, DO NOT STIR.

For the socorat

Turn up the heat to full for no more than a minute or so. You will hear the rice start to “pop”. After a short time, “popping” (thirty seconds or so) turn off the heat completely. Interestingly this is how popped rice cereals made without the fish flavouring!

Resting is important for the final flavours to develop and the rice to finish cooking. If you want to decorate your paella with extra pre-cooked prawns and mussels on the half shell, then this is a good time to add them so they can warm through. Cover with a double layer of foil and leave it to rest for ten minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and parsley straight from the pan.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery    Raw Fish Milk Oyster Crab

Please see the Allergens Page


My Mardis Gras Cajun Gumbo

And so it is Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, and today I am cooking a Cajun classic, Gumbo. Gumbo is a type of stew from southern Louisiana combining the ingredients and techniques of a melting pot of cultures, including French, Spanish, German, West African, and Choctaw. In general, a Creole gumbo generally contains shellfish, tomatoes, okra and filé * powder. Native words for either of the last two ingredients are the likely root of the word gumbo. A Cajun gumbo is generally based on a dark roux made from fat and flour and is spicier. Both use a ‘ Holy Trinity ’ of ingredients,  chopped onion, celery and green pepper as a base,  developed from the classic mirepoix. Andouille sausage * or ham is often added to gumbos of either variety. After the base is prepared, vegetables are cooked down, and then the meat is added. The dish simmers for a minimum of three hours, with shellfish, filé and extra spices added near the end.

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*Gumbo filé powder is a necessity for cooking authentic Creole or Cajun cuisine. Filé powder is the powdered leaves of the sassafras tree. When ground, they have a rich, spicy flavour with a hint of eucalyptus. Andouille sausage is a staple of Cajun and Creole cooking brought to the United States by French immigrants to Louisiana. It is a course pork sausage flavoured with garlic, pepper, onions and wine.

If you are going to cook Cajan then you can get in the mood with this version of the Hank Williams classic. My Gumbo recipe is no exception, the only time I waiver from the truly authentic is adding a little extra butter to my chicken, sausage, and prawns to produce a rich sauce to top the finished dish. As they say in New Orleans,

” Laissez les bons Temps Rouler -let the Good Times Roll “

My Cajun Gumbo                               serves 4

12 large prawns, peeled and de-veined

4 chicken breasts, butterflied

200 gr Andouille sausage, sliced

200 gr Long Grain Rice

150 gr Butter

50 gr Flour

1 litre quality Chicken Stock

50 ml Olive Oil

1 Large Onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 sticks of Celery, washed and chopped

1 Green Bell Pepper

6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

4 tablespoons of Cajun-style seasoning

2 tablespoons Filé powder ( available from a good Deli )

2 Bay Leaves

1 teaspoon Tabasco hot sauce ( you can use more if you prefer )

Juice of 1 Lemon

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped Parsley

In a medium bowl mix the prawns, chicken half the sausage and 2 tablespoons of the Cajun style seasoning. In a large heavy-bottomed, saucepan heat the oil over a medium heat and cook the onion, pepper, and celery for ten minutes without burning. Remove from the pan and reserve. Melt half of the butter and stir in the flour. Cook out the roux over a gentle heat, stirring continuously until a dark nut brown. Add the cooked trinity, the seasoned chicken, garlic, bay leaves, the sausage, the remaining Creole seasoning, and Tabasco sauce. Pour in half of the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook over the lowest possible heat for two and a half hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

In a second pan, cook the rice by bringing the remaining stock to the boil, add the rice and place on a tight cover. Simmer for five minutes then remove from heat and leave to steam for ten more minutes. Add the prawns to the gumbo and reduce the cooking liquor down by a third until the prawns are cooked. Add the filé powder, the lemon juice, butter, and check the seasoning. Finish the gumbo with chopped parsley then divide the cooked rice into bowls using a slotted spoon and top with a piece of chicken, prawns, sausage and some cooking liquor.

My Cajun Seasoning

3 tablespoons Smoked Paprika

2 tablespoons Onion Powder

2 tablespoons Garlic Powder

1 tablespoon Hot Mustard Powder

1 tablespoon Cayenne Pepper

1 tablespoon Dried Oregano

1 tablespoon Dried Thyme

1 tablespoon Salt

½ tablespoon ground Bay Leaves

½ tablespoon ground Black Pepper

Mix in a food processor and store in an airtight container.