Food & Drink

The ultimate paella recipe

Technically, the ultimate paella recipe does not exist. There are probably as many variations of paella as there are families in Spain and, of course, every family believes that their recipe is the ultimate one.

As a good (and proud) member of my family, I have yet to find a better recipe than my mother’s seafood paella. So, let’s assume that my mother’s paella is actually the best, until proven otherwise*.

This recipe has been in our family for many years, however it has experienced many variations since my grandparents moved from Valencia to Catalonia in the 50’s. Although the origins of this recipe are Valencian, the recipe has grown to be completely Mediterranean in taste and flavours (mainly because we have great seafood in the Costa Brava and would be stupid not to use it!).

So, with my mother’s (and grandmother’s) permission, I’m going to share our most appreciated family secret. Please note that this is quite a hardcore recipe, allow plenty of time and lots of patience for making it.

* Do you believe that your paella is better? Let us know and we will be happy to come over for lunch and try it out (we can bring the wine!).

Seafood paella

Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients

  • 16 shrimps, unpeeled (remove the heads and keep them for the broth)
  • 8 langoustines or small lobsters, unpeeled
  • 16 mussels with shells, scrubbed and cleaned
  • 1 medium size cuttlefish cleaned and chopped into 1 cm square strips (about 200 gr)
  • 2 cups of short-grain rice (about 400 gr). 
In Spain we use “bomba” rice, but “Arborio” rice - which is used to make risotto - is an acceptable substitute
  • 2 green peppers, grated
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in long slices
  • 1 big onion, grated
  • 1 tomato, grated
  • 25 ml of dry white wine
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbs of Parsley, chopped
  • 9 Tbs of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of saffron threads (It can be substituted with turmeric)
  • 1 lemon cut in wedges
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • A pinch of sugar

For the fish broth

  • The heads of the shrimps
  • Fish head or fish bones (a whole cheap fish will also work)
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • 1 carrot peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A bunch of parsley
  • 1/4 Tbs salt

It is best that all seafood is as fresh as possible, however, you can use frozen stuff if you live in the middle of the forest and have no way of finding fresh ingredients (just don’t tell my mother!). Also, if you cannot get langoustines in your local fish market, feel free to change them for other seafood such as clams, crabs or even Finnish crayfish.

Instructions

Make the fish broth

  1. Put 2 l of water in a pot and bring to boil.
  2. Add all the broth ingredients and partially cover the pot to ensure that you don't cook off too much liquid. 
  3. Boil at low heat for about 1 hour.
  4. Strain and set aside.

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Cook the mussels

  1. Clean the mussels under cold water, discarding any that are damaged or open.
  2. Put the mussels in a pot (without water), cover with a lid and cook them at high heat for about 6 minutes or until all the shells open, shake the pot vigorously every know and then to help the opening process.
  3. Set aside and covered for 10 minutes.
  4. The mussels will release juice during cooking, strain the juice with a fine-mesh strainer and add it to the fish broth.
  5. Put the cooked mussels in a separate bowl, discard any mussels that are closed and keep the rest aside.  

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Fry the shrimps and langoustines

  1. Set a pan over medium heat and add 9 Tbs of olive oil.
  2. When the oil is hot, fry the shrimps and langoustines for about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove ingredients from the pan.
  4. Now add the slices of red bell pepper and fry them for about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  5. Keep the oil on the pan for the sofrito.

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Prepare the sofrito (a.k.a suffer)

  1. Add the grated onion to the same pan (and with the same oil) you fried the shrimps, langoustines and red pepper.
  2. Sauté onion at medium-low heat until it becomes soft (about 5 min).
  3. Add grated green peppers, cook for about 20 min until the mix starts to get a brown colour, stir often.
  4. Add the grated tomato, the chopped garlic, chopped parsley and chopped cuttlefish.
  5. Add a pinch of sugar to reduce the acidity of the tomato.
  6. Season with 1 tsp of salt and black pepper. Let it cook at low heat for about 20-30 min, stirring often. The longer you cook it, the deeper the flavour will be.
  7. Add 25 ml of white wine and turn the heat to high, stir and cook until the liquid evaporates.

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Toast the saffron

  1. Toast the saffron threads on a small pan.
  2. Powder them in a mortar.
  3. Mix the powder with 2 Tbs of the fish broth and set aside.

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Make the paella, finally!

  1. Bring the broth back to a simmer.
  2. Set a shallow pan (about 38 cm diameter, 4-5 cm deep) over medium heat. You can also use 2 small pans and split the ingredients accordingly.
  3. Add the sofrito and stir until it warms up.
  4. Add the rice, stir for about 3 minutes.
  5. Add 6 cups of the boiling fish broth (about 13,5 dl) and the saffron mix, stir to spread the rice evenly. 
  6. Raise the heat to medium-high.
  7. Taste and add salt if necessary. From this point on, do not stir the rice.
  8. As soon as it starts boiling add the seafood and red pepper slices. Arrange them nicely in the pan.
  9. Cook at medium heat until all the liquid has been absorbed (around 8-10 min).
  10. Taste the rice; it should be al dente (If the rice is still uncooked but all the liquid has been absorbed, add a bit of broth and cook a few minutes more.
  11. Remove from heat and let it rest for few minutes.
  12. Arrange wedges of lemon on top of the paella and serve.

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Yay! You made it! We are so proud of you.
Now you have managed to accomplish half of the paella experience, the other half is of course eating it. There is only one traditional way to do it: directly from the pan. Oh yes. How? Wait for the "how to eat paella" -instructions in our next post!