I love Paella, although not the kind that goes overboard on the seafood ingredients. I’ve never been a fan of tentacles in my food, whether octopus or squid. I can’t get past the sight of them and remind myself of my son when he was younger, not even going so far as to taste them before I KNOW that I won’t be able to get them into my mouth, let alone down my throat.
I do, however, enjoy the combination of flavours and textures created by using shrimps/prawns, scallops, fish, chicken, chorizo, mussels and veggies. If you’re happy to move away from the traditional list of ingredients, then this is a great dish to play around with and adapt to your and your family’s preferred selection of meats and seafood. One thing I learned about using Saffron though, which is usually infused in a liquid, is that adding it in the early stages of cooking will impart more colour to the dish, while adding it at a later stage, it contributes more aromatics.
If I may be so bold as to quote from my favourite herb and spice book, titled Herb & Spice (funnily enough) by the renowned author Jill Norman, “The smell of saffron is unmistakable: rich, pungent, musky, floral, honeyed, and tenacious. The taste is delicate yet penetrating, warm, earthy, musky, bitter and lingering. The aromatic properties vary slightly depending on the saffron’s place of origin.” Native to the Mediterranean and western Asia, it was traditionally used by ancient civilizations of the region as a dye and to flavour food and wine. Spain is the main producer and it takes about 80,000 saffron crocus flowers, or roses as they are called, to yield 2.5 kg (5 lb) of stigmas, which produce around 500 g (1 lb) of saffron after toasting. No wonder it is the most expensive spice in the world.
Jill also warns against buying this lovely spice from tourist markets as turmeric, marigold petals and safflower are often passed off as saffron. If stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark, place it can often last 2 – 3 years. This dish is not something that can be made in a hurry, but it is a very sociable meal and friends sitting around the kitchen table with a glass of wine and having a good chat while you cook will pass the time pleasantly.
500 ml chicken stock
150 ml white wine
1 pinch/half tsp saffron threads
1 – 2 chorizo sausages (depending on length), chopped
1 – 2 chicken thigh fillets (depending on size), dice into 2 cm cubes
8 large prawns or 16 – 20 shrimps (depending on size), remove heads, shells and legs (you can leave a couple fully dressed for decoration if you wish)
6 – 8 scallops
1 large fillet fish, skin and bones removed, dice into 2 cm cubes
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 green and 1 red pepper (capsicum), finely chopped, remove all seeds
1 cup medium-grain uncooked rice
1 ripe tomato
2 tsp smoked paprika
100 g (about 3/4 cup) frozen peas
- Combine the stock, white wine and saffron in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and allow to gently simmer.
- In a large pan, fry the chorizo at a medium heat (only takes a few minutes) and remove to a separate bowl. Cover with foil to keep warm.
- Fry the diced chicken and fry for about 5 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the pan and add to the chorizo.
- Fry the prawns/shrimps for about 2 minutes or until they change colour. Remove from the pan and set aside separately to the chorizo and chicken ingredients.
- Fry the scallops, taking great care that you don’t overcook them, they cook quickly and will be rubbery and dry if overcooked. Transfer to the prawn/shrimp bowl.
- Increase the heat slightly and fry the onion and peppers for about 5 minutes until the onion softens. Add the dry uncooked rice and paprika. Stir and cook for about a minute before reducing the heat to medium-low.
- Add about one third of the stock/wine/saffron liquid stirring to coat all ingredients.
- Add the chicken, chorizo and fish cubes and allow to cook gently for about 5 minutes or until the liquid is almost absorbed (same principle as risotto).
- Add half the remaining stock and cook for a further five minutes, watching carefully to see when the liquid is absorbed.
- Then add the remaining liquid and peas and cook for a further 5 – 10 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.
- Lastly, add the chopped fresh tomato, prawns and scallops and stir gently to combine.
- Serve with lemon wedges and a few of the still dressed but cooked prawns on the top if you like.
You’ll notice in this recipe I didn’t use mussells as I didn’t have any on hand, but as with most of my meal-type recipes, play around with your own preferred ingredients until it works for you.