Recipe: Paella La Rambla

Name that dish.

I say it goes by many appellations. It starts off as ‘Poor planning results in burnt paella’ and quickly transforms itself to the ‘Husband’s most requested dish’.

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Paella in Barcelona

No mean feat, considering that husband has no long term, short-term memory when it comes to meals.

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Scanty on the shellfish, methinks

Friends and readers, I must introduce my husband to you. Have you met him before? Ok, well here he is in brief. Food lover, but not to cook. To eat? Yes. Loves textures, flavours and weird combinations. Orange marmalade on toast with fried, spicy eggs anyone? Personally, no thank you but….

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A lemon wedge…to brighten up the taste

And memory? What? What memory? Doesn’t have one for some matters might be the right answer. Perfect? No. Right? Yes.

Take this soufflé I made which he ate and promptly forgot about a mere day later when readers of my blog spoke to him about it. Not feigning anything, he said ‘I didn’t have any of that’, inadvertently calling me a ‘liar’. Sigh.

These moments of weakness are thus balanced when a plea to make Paella happens not just once but twice in the first half of the year! And so it is that on a certain evening, I sweated, slaving away in the heat of spring, recreating the Catalan symphony which first was … last fall.

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On that fateful occasion, we travelled to Barcelona, and I without paella pan. Silly but thankfully in the end, I had a delightfully fragrant and tasty pan of paella, with more socarrat (crusty rice bottom) than I desired but my husband, kids and I happily gobbled it up.

Socarrat, a seductive caramelization of the bottom layer of rice.

Socarrat (Catalan), quintessence of the perfect paella and for which the restaurant is named, is the delectable, sensuous crust that forms on the bottom of the paella pan when the liquid is rendered and the rice reaches its peak of succulence.”

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And so, if you happen to have been in sunny Barcelona, strolling down its famous street ‘La Rambla’ when this dish was invented, you might be tempted to call anything colourful, packed with flavor and a pleasure to eat  like I did, Paella La  Rambla.

The end result of the dish is like the coming together of a great orchestra. I’ve made it thrice, with no regrets…or complaints as such. Fresh mussels. Frozen cooked mussels. Langoustines or King prawns. Squid…..no squid.  Tasty….every single time.

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La Rambla, from the Mirador de Colom

Paella pan on the hob, blue and orange flames dancing underneath the steel.  King prawns in shell, onions and thin slices of garlic gently cooking in a light coat of oil begin the dance.

Once pink, they are hauled out of the pan and shelled.  The shells soak in hot water, with a pinch of salt and saffron for a few minutes before they are blitzed with drops of shrimp boil to make a seafood stock.

The empty pan is greased again with butter and slices of chorizo are added and fried till the oil becomes orange and the smell wafts around the house. Luckily the girls are out and the son’s asleep – no one but me can ask for tasters.

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In goes the tomato sauce, coaxing harmony out of all dried sausage, getting the flavours to meld into a cohesive, wholesome sauce.  Watch the sauce as it sizzles when you add hot, thick stock!

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Paella, a dish worthy of head stands. I suspect Elephants think so too!

Rice. Stock. Simmer. Shrimps. Mussels. Peas. Heat. Salt. Pepper. Done. Paella is ready.

Paella La Rambla

Ingredients, Serves 4
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large Spanish (red) onion or shallots, diced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
150g (about 12 – 14 ) uncooked king prawns or langoustines with their shells on, head and body separated
A pinch of saffron threads (about 6 threads)
150g chorizo, diced into chunks
¼ cup/ 60 ml smooth tomato sauce or passata
400g paella rice (or flat, short grained risotto rice)
12 – 24 mussels, cleaned – broken and open ones discarded
120g fresh squid rings, cut into chunks, optional
3 – 4 tablespoons of frozen peas
Salt and cayenne/aleppo/chilli pepper, to taste

How To

Make a shellfish stock

Heat up 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil. Add half of the chopped onions, half of the sliced garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the shrimps or langoustines and the heads, some salt and chilli powder. Stir about for a couple of minutes till shellfish turns pink.

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Remove from the heat. Put heads in a jug and then shell the prawns or langoustines. Don’t discard the shells; instead combine with the heads for the stock. Add a litre of boiling water to the heads and shells. Add a pinch of salt, ½ teaspoon of Shrimp boil and the saffron and allow sit for 3 – 4 minutes. Then blitz in a blender or with a hand blender, about a minute till the shells are broken down and the liquid thickens. Pass through a sieve twice and reserve the stock. Discard the shell mush.

Make the paella

In the pan, put the rest of the butter and oil. Stir together and once the butter is melted, add the remaining diced onions and chorizo. Stir around till the spices are coaxed out of the chorizo into the oil, and it turns a vibrant orange. Add the rest of the garlic slices and the squid chunks if using. Stir and let cook for a couple of minutes. Put the tomato sauce in the pan and stir around. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add half of the hot saffron stock to the pan and let simmer again, for a couple of minutes.

Stir again and sprinkle the rice around the pan. Let cook for a few minutes and then stir around a couple of times. Cover with a tight fitting lid and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning and add half of the remaining stock. Allow to cook till the liquid is absorbed and the rice soft. Add the mussels and drizzle some but not all of the remaining stock around the pan, replace the lid and let cook for 5 minutes till the mussels open up. Discard any which remain shut.

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Getting the socarrat. Socarrat (soh-kah-raht, from the verb socarrar, which means to toast lightly) is the caramelized crust of rice that sometimes sticks to the bottom of the pan. It is the prize in a well-made paella. To get some, increase the heat at the end of cooking, paying close attention to the sound of the rice (it crackles) and the smell (toasty but not burned). After one or two minutes, poke under the foil with a spoon; if you feel just a touch of bumpy resistance on the bottom of the pan, you’ve got socarrat.

Finally sprinkle over the frozen peas, the prawns and the remainder of the stock. Let cook another 5 minutes.

Take off the heat and leave covered with a tea towel for 10 – 15 minutes so the flavours marry, the rice absorbs the liquids and it all melds together. Serve….

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Made in Barcelona

The Verdict

Husband sits at the table and eats half the pan. Few words spoken, just thanks in his eyes and sullied hands…… and two words ‘My Paella’!

IMG_5441And so, his poor memory is..…forgiven. I’m looking forward to taking the next Paella order. Are you a fan?

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Great Paella Stories

Paella, Rice at its best – an essay on Fine Cooking

A recipe for Paella Valenciana, which incorporates both chicken and rabbit @ the Splendid Table[wpurp-searchable-recipe]Recipe: Paella La Rambla – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]

36 Comments

  1. Thanks everyone. I’m sorry I can’t reply to all the comments – I’m off to the woods – camping with the girls and cub scouts!!!!! Wish me luck and be sure I’ll tell all! LOL

  2. Hello lovely lady! Your hubby sounds so much like mine, but I would devour spicy eggs over marmalade, lol. I enjoy how your posts flow ever so clearly into a delish plate of goodness! I have tried, never attempted paella, but the wonder of a great socarrat has me curious. happy weekend!

    sweetlife

  3. Paella is on my list of “must get around to trying …”; all I need is the pan and the time. I have The Husband who will happily inhale anything I put in front of him.
    I just love that elephant sculpture – amazing.

  4. We’re so new to this paella thing, but oh what an adventure it is! I will study your recipe carefully, Oz – we need all the help we can get! 🙂

  5. Argh- this looks like a fab Paella! I can’t believe your husband can’t remember the names of dishes- my boyfriend has an elephants memory for food and has to remind me of dishes I’ve cooked.

  6. Oz I have not made paella yet, but after seeing this post I sure would like to try it. I have seen many paella pans, but resisted…ahh now an excuse to buy it. My family is a little more adventurous now that I have been blogging.

  7. How fun to “meet” your hubby! 🙂 What a scrumptious dish, dear Ozoz. I have never attempted paella but that must be rectified SOON! 🙂

  8. Ok…I’m following your instructions to get the socarrat. I’ve never been able to, and it sounds SO GOOD! A lovely post to read and view, as always. – S

  9. Although my husband isn’t very good at remembering events, he doesn’t do too badly when it comes to food. Oh well, more justification for your photographing your cooking and meals eaten then!

  10. I can’t believe I have never been to Barcelona. I love this version of paella (in fact could stick a spoon in your paella pan right now) but husband is not that into prawns, mussels etc so make a pork, chorizo and spinach version which is probably his favourite dish ever (he’s also into eating, not that much into cooking).

  11. Haha your husband sounds much like my partner! He never remembers the dishes I’ve cooked, most of the time he doesn’t even know what he is eating, but fortunately he is (usually) enjoying what ever I cook for him. This dish sounds so tasty!

  12. I would stand on my head to get a good paella – now I must break out my paella pan as you have me craving it. Loved the back story of Barcelona – wonderful pictures. ITs funny about the crusty rice – definitely a favorite. Persian rice has the same thing going for it.

  13. I absolutely LOVE paella! I got my boyfriend to buy me a pan for my birthday a few years ago and have only used it twice! The problem I have when making paella is not having an evenly distributed heat so I tend to burn the center (must rectify this soon). But yours looks perfect!

    What I would give to go to Spain! I love the look of La Rambla – the trees lining the street amongst all the buildings.

  14. Oh you have convinced me to try to make paella again! Unfortunately hubby and the kids aren’t seafood fans, and I don’t have a proper pan but apart from that, what’s stopping me right? 🙂 Do you have a new camera now? Great shots, and of course the sight of that paella is making my tummy grumble.

    • I know the feeling Shaz, when half the family…or more…that is everyone but you (the adventurous cook) isn’t keen on a dish! My kids won’t even look at this, not to talk of taste! And no, don’t have a new camera yet. Some of the photos are from our trip to Barcelona and others are from when I made Paella in October and took photos…..as *sigh*, no camera to document recent endeavors. It is really really weird to just cook. But I am reminding myself that taking photos of the finished dish was only one part of the fun. I still enjoyed the cooking, the recipe development and the writing so……can still do all those without being snappy happy. A solution though is in the offing! Thanks for asking….

  15. I’ve made one attempt at making paella and it was an utter fail. First off, I tried cooking in a wok…and then went downhill from there. I wish my husband would forget that…Yours looks absolutely perfect, I am quite jealous. I’ll attempt it again after purchasing the right pan.

  16. I always look forward to your stories and the love you put into your cooking. I grew up eating Paella and lived while young in Barcelona…Fantastic presentation…I want some Socarrat…

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