Saturday, 7 September 2013

Paella and Friends

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Today is my second day at BFF M's flat in Rotterdam. There is something to be said about a friend who buys an airbed so I can sleep comfortably. Ours is a kinship that has spanned years, and I swear, we have never fought at all. Kudos to him for having the patience to work through his best friend's (that's me!) bitchiness!

I need to make something to show my appreciation to the two BFFs who took time to accommodate and entertain me during my summer vacation in Holland. I could have given gifts from Spain, but I am too kuripot. I could have just told them, I'll treat the three of us to a restaurant, but wait, Liz already did that! She treated M and me to two dinners in Belgium as her birthday celebration.

So I volunteered to do the one thing I am confident about in life: Cooking. Today, as promised, I am making paella for dinner. It is a weekday and L and M are still at their offices. I have the flat by myself and with Yiruma on the iTunes, I begin my paella cookery.

Confession: Yes, I live in Spain but to be honest, this is my first ever paella from scratch. Still, I have always been fearless when it comes to cooking. I have the gift of a good palate and so I took the challenge head on.

The Ingredients
Saffron This is a non-negotiable ingredient. Paella is not paella without saffron. And please do not even think that kasubha can take the place of saffron.
Green Peas
Thyme or a Paella Seasoning pack from Spain
Chicken cut into bite sized portions
Shrimps (shelled and deveined)
Bell pepper
Rice (Redondo or any rice you have)
Onions, chopped
Garlic, chopped
Tomatoes, diced

The Technique
I based my paella recipe from MarketManila's Recipe with some tweaks taken from my quick paella research.

The first step is making a sofrito. Saute onion, garlic and tomatoes until it becomes sort of a chunky tomato sauce, about thirty minutes. Add saffron~ The amount of saffron you add will depend on your preference. I like my paella with a full on saffron flavor so I added about 1/4 of a teaspoon of saffron. Note that you can make the sofrito beforehand and use it in other dishes.

Assembling the Rice
After my sofrito is done, I make my paella. In a wide shallow, flat frying pan (or if you have a paellera, then use it!) I crank the stove to medium high and sauté the remaining garlic and onion. Add the chicken, bell peppers and the shrimps. Stir fry for 5 minutes and set them aside. Using the same pan, I stir fry my rice in olive oil until the flavors on the pan enrobe the rice, about 5 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock into the pan. Pour in one packet of paella seasoning or thyme and more saffron if you want. Add the sautéed chicken and shrimps, mix the rice and the meats JUST ONCE making sure that they are uniform and level. Simmer until the rice is cooked (about 15-20 minutes). Lower the heat to low. Mix the green peas in the rice. Cover with aluminum foil. Cook for 5 more minutes. Then the Paella is done!

How to eat Paella
Paella is a food that's meant to be shared. It is also the kind of food that you can tweak to your liking. Making it as grand or as austere as you want. You can use seafood -- lobsters, crabs, squid, fish or you can make it strictly vegetarian and use carrots, mushrooms, squash and asparagus in place of meat. I have seen most paellas in Spain served with a slice of lemon. So this is how I serve and eat my paella, squeezing a slice of lemon on my plate of paella before digging in.

I served the paella with some soy fried chicken.

And a plate of assorted middle eastern sweet treats that we bought in Belgium.

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