Saturday, April 29, 2006

PERFECT PAELLA (Gordon Ramsey)

OK, so this one isn't in the slightest bit vegetarian, but there is something so satisfying about cooking dishes where all the ingredients come together in one pan. This recipe came from a Hispanic chef I met in America. Chorizo isn't a traditional ingredient in paella but what fascinated me was the way she sauteed it until it almost disintegrated in the oil. It gave a really nice colour and flavour to the rice early on and lent so much depth to the finished dish. Cook it properly, without it becoming stodgy, and you can eat it cold the next day as a salad. As ever with rice dishes, the point is to remember that it will carry on cooking after it's been taken off the heat. Shellfish is good this month and while mussels and prawns are the more traditional ingredients, there is no reason not to experiment. If you can get hold of fresh crevettes you'll find their flavour is far superior to the prawn.

4 tbsp olive oil
4 free-range chicken thighs, skin on
1 tsp smoked paprika
125g chorizo sausage, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely diced 400g Spanish rice 125ml dry white wine
11 chicken stock
A few saffron threads
4 large prawns or crevettes
12 large prepared mussels, or 6 green lip mussels
Few sprigs of rosemary
2 lemons cut in wedges

1 Heat the oil in a large paella pan or frying pan, sprinkle the chicken with the paprika and add to the pan skin-side down. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the chorizo, garlic, onion and pepper. Cook for a few minutes to soften the onion and then add the rice. Stir well so that each grain of rice is well coated in oil.
2 Add the wine and allow to evaporate before adding the stock and saffron. Push the prawns and mussels into the mixture
so that they are submerged. Scatter over the rosemary, and leave to simmer gently for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking. But not too often as you will release the starch and make the mixture too stodgy.
3 Arrange the lemon wedges around the edge of the pan and serve immediately.

Note: the prawns or crevettes in this dish may be peeled or unpeeled. I prefer unpeeled as they retain their flavour. Serve the paella with finger bowls of warm water with a slice of lemon in them — although this is a matter of choice.