My mum makes a great paella. She learned how to do it the authentic way years ago when she lived in Spain. The other night on Masterchef, Miguel Maestra held a masterclass and showed the contestants how to make a classic paella. I mentioned it to mum a few days later and said I’d love to give it a go but I don’t want to go out and buy a little paellera for one meal. It turns out mum owns a 4-person paellera so of course I rushed home to give it a go. Not wanting to complicate things by cooking exotic meats like rabbit and playing with seafood cooking times, I opted for a classic chicken and chorizo paella. I did quite a bit of research before I embarked on my paella mission but didn’t discover two recipes that were alike. I took a little of each one and came up with my own recipe that was fabulous. It’s really not a hard dish to make although perfecting it would take quite a bit of practice.
The base for the sofrito varies between regions but I used onion, garlic, tomato and capsicum. You can make the sofrito when you make the paella but I preferred to make it ahead of time so the actual paella-making didn’t take too long.
Saute the onion and garlic in a fry-pan until the onion has softened.
Add the tomatoes and capsicum (pepper) and stir them through. Cook the sofrito, stirring, until it has reduced and thickened.
Mine took about 20 minutes to get to this stage. Set it aside.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the paellera. Be sure to watch it as it heats up very quickly.
Add the chicken and chorizo to the pan and cook until the chicken is sealed and nearly cooked through. Remove the chicken and chorizo to a dish and keep them warm.
Tip the sofrito and spices into the pan and cook until fragrant.
Add the rice and toss it around until it is coated in sofrito and a brilliant yellow colour. Most recipes I read call for authentic Spanish paella rice called ‘Bomba’ rice. The Bomba rice at my local deli was $15 a packet which was way out of my budget so I used arborio rice. According to my paella expert (mum) any short-grain rice is perfect.
Spread the rice into an even layer.
Pour the stock into the pan and then arrange the meat in a pretty pattern.
Leave the paella to cook for about 25 minutes. DO NOT STIR! The special thing about paella is the caramelised ‘crust’ it forms on the bottom of the pan. That is the sign of a successful paella and can’t be achieved if you touch it while it’s cooking. If your burner isn’t very big, turn the pan around every little while so it cooks evenly.
When the liquid has almost all been absorbed, add the peas. I tried to make them look pretty but there were too many. Leave it to cook for about another 5 minutes then remove the pan from the heat, cover it with a tea towel and leave it to rest for 5 minutes. This is another very important step in paella making (I’m yet to get to the bottom of why but I’ll share when I find out).
See that little bit next to the lemon that looks burnt? That’s perfect paella caramelisation. Unfortunately mine didn’t have an entirely crunchy base but I was pretty impressed with my first attempt. Enjoy!
Chicken and chorizo paella
- 6 chicken tenderloins (you can use other chicken if you prefer)
- 125g chorizo cut into pieces (get the best quality you can afford)
- 2 cups short-grained rice (I used arborio)
- 1 L chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 a red and 1/2 a green capsicum (pepper), diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- spices – the mix I used contained tumeric, Spanish paprika (use smoked preferably), garlic, fennel, lemon zest, saffron, regular paprika and cloves – the essential ingredients are saffron and paprika
- Olive oil
Make the sofrito by cooking the onion and garlic in a saucepan until they soften. Add the capsicum and tomato and cook the mixture until it has reduced significantly. Mine took about 20 minutes.
Heat the oil in the paellera then cook the chicken and chorizo until the chicken is sealed on all sides. Remove the chicken and chorizo to a plate and keep it warm.
Add a little more oil to the pan then tip in the sofrito and the spices and cook until you can smell the aroma of the spices.
Add the rice and toss it until it is all golden and yellow then spread it into an even layer.
Gently pour the stock over the rice.
Arrange the chicken and chorizo in a pretty pattern on top.
Leave the paella to cook for about 25 minutes. If you have a small stove, be sure to rotate the pan every once in a while to ensure it cooks evenly.
Pour the frozen peas over the paella and leave it on the heat for another 5 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and cover it with a tea towel. Leave it to rest for 5 minutes.
Serve the paella from the paellera with lime wedges.
Disclaimer: I’m sorry if I offended anyone who knows how to make a perfect paella but this is my interpretation of a paella and the method I made up to make it as easy as possible.
Note: you can buy the paellera at any good kitchen shop or at a few places online. Mum recommends the speckled pans over the plain ones. I think they’re a more authentic and better quality version.