Maybe it is the soccer world cup being held in Europe that is turning my tastes that way. Maybe I am on a tomato and rice kick. Maybe RED is my colour of the moment.
Whatever, I found myself looking for a paella the other night.
There is a history to paella in my life. I came across it at Carclew Arts Centre in North Adelaide for the first time years ago when my daughter was involved in some summer classes there. Carclew had an open day of wonderful food and wonderful performances and exhibitions. It was great. One stall was cooking this amazing open pan rice dish – I had to wait for 15 minutes until it was ready to serve – and the taste of it was fantastic! Amazing.
How come, then, in all the cooking done since then, I don’t own a paella pan? and that, not having a paella pan, I have not ever ever cooked paella? I have eaten it out, salivated over pans in shops, researched recipes and rices. And yet … .a paella has never ever graced my kitchen. How weird is that?
Having some beautiful cherry tomatoes in the fridge crying out to be used, when I came across a recipe on the net, I was carried away. Half an hour of research later, there I was in the kitchen, still without a paella pan, but cooking the most delicious paella ever (to come out of my kitchen).
Notes on the recipe
This is a very easy dish to prepare. I have made some notes on ingredients, but don’t be put off. Try it yourself. There is very little that can go wrong. Mix, match and play with ingredients, letting your experience of the ingredients guide your taste combinations. These are just my thoughts – consider or ignore as you will. I am a flavour junkie and like to imbibe my food with as much appropriate flavour as possible. Sometimes that means very subtle but present flavour. In this case it means a gutsy, robust taste of Spain, sun and a glass of wine.
What provides the very authentic flavour is the saffron and the smoked paprika(Spanish Pimenton). Substitutes will definitely alter the flavour.
Some sites will tell you that turmeric is a substitute for saffron, and, yes, it is called poor man’s saffron in parts. But the flavour is totally different. If you don’t have saffron and cannot run out and find some, you can use a pinch of turmeric for colour, but the flavour will be different.
Similarly for smoked paprika. Substituting ordinary paprika will not give you that wonderful smokiness which is such a wonderful part of the paella. If you can’t find it, try using 1 tspn paprika with 2 crushed pods of black cardamom (don’t use green). But the flavour will be different.
With the stock. Usually I really recommend a home made stock to get the best flavour out of recipes. But with this dish, water and some white wine are fine. The water and wine is fortified in taste by the tomato paste, and it is all the dish needs.
Tomatoes – don’t compromise on quality here. They really make the dish.
Other Toppings – this recipe is very versatile. Think beans, asparagus, peas, some thin slices of butternut pumpkin. Think chives, parsley and basil. Even olives would work well with this dish.
Dried beans - again versatility abounds. Butter beans work well, as do chick peas. They are not essential, but add some protein to the dish and work very well with the rice and tomatoes.
Paella Pan. I used a deep, straight sided, large frying pan for this dish. It worked a treat.
Go Spanish! – Tomato Paella
Source: Adapted from superspark.wordpress.com
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Serves: 4 – 6 people
Paella pan or deep, straight sided frying pan
2.5 cups boiling water
500g – 750g ripe tomatoes (cherry tomatoes are Ok)
1 cup white wine
Celtic sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
0.25 cup (or less) extra virgin olive oil
1 – 2 sticks fresh rosemary
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 – 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 Tblspn tomato paste
large pinch saffron threads
2 tspns Spanish Smoked Paprika (Spanish Pimenton)
2 cups Spanish or short grained rice (absorbs liquid and flavour)
1 – 2 cups cooked chickpeas or butter beans (optional)
finely chopped parsley
If you are using cherry tomatoes, cut in halves and place in medium bowl. If you are using larger tomatoes, core them and cut into thick wedges, and place in medium bowl.
Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and pepper, add the rosemary leaves stripped from the stalks, and drizzle the tomatoes with 1 Tbslpn olive oil. Mix around with your hands to coat with oil and distribute salt, pepper and rosemary.
Put the remainder of the oil in a large skillet or frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens. This takes about 3 – 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, saffron and paprika and cook for a minute more.
Add the rice and stir until it is shiny with the oil, about another minute. Add the chickpeas and beans if using, and stir them through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Add the liquid and stir until combined.
Arrange the tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle the juices from the bottom of the bowl over the rice. Turn the heat to low, and allow the rice to steam cook, undisturbed (no stirring) for 15 minutes. If the rice looks too dry but is not quite done, add a small amount of water or wine.
When the rice is cooked, raise the heat to get some browning on the bottom of the rice. This takes 3 or 4 minutes.
Turn the pan off and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes while you prepare a green salad. Sprinkle with parsley.