How good this book is comes down to how good this recipe tastes. If you follow it, my friends and family say it is one of the very best paellas they have tasted. The intensity of flavour in the stock you make will be the most important thing, as well as how wide your paella pan is. Believe it or not, it makes all the difference. On a conventional hob at home, to achieve perfection you cannot cook a really good paella for more than three people. The caramelization of the ingredients and how the rice sears over the wide surface adds points to the flavour and end result. Having said all these things to satisfy the purists, for us home cooks (I include myself), if you cook it for more it still tastes amazing. I do it all the time.
[Ed. note: follow this link to learn more about Omar's technique for making paella and his instructional kitchen video from Jamie Oliver's FoodTube.]
500g (1lb 2oz) fresh squid, inner parts removed but kept (you can ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
50ml (3 1/2 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp rock or sea salt, plus extra for seasoning
1 red romano or bell pepper, cut into thick strips
200g (7oz) flat green or runner beans, chopped (this is optional, but i like it)
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp sweet pimentón (sweet smoked paprika)
2 tomatoes (weighing about 300g [10 1/2 oz] in total), grated
400g (heaped 2 cups) paella rice, such as bomba, senia or bahia
500g (1lb 2oz) fresh prawns or langoustines, or a mixture, a few reserved whole, otherwise heads and shells removed
10 mussels and/or clams, cleaned and any open or damaged shells discarded
For the shellfish stock
Extra virgin olive oil, for frying
Heads and shells of 500g (1lb 2oz) prawns and langoustines
The inner parts of the fresh squid, ink included
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
1 small leek, roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, halved
3 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tomato, roughly chopped
50ml (3 1/2 tbsp) brandy
120ml (1/2 cup) white wine
3 white fish carcases or 1 head of cod or monkfish, or 2 fish stock cubes
1g (2 tsp) saffron threads
To clean the squid at home, remove the inner parts with your fingers, cutting the inner core just above the tentacles. Don’t discard any of these ugly parts as they will make a rich stock.
First make the stock. Heat a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a casserole dish over the highest heat. Add the head and shells of the prawns and langoustines and brown them for 2 minutes. Add the reserved inner parts of the squid, the carrot, onion, celery, leek, garlic halves, black peppercorns and bay leaf and let caramelize until the vegetables are a dark golden colour, then add the tomato. Cook for 2 minutes and then flambé with the brandy followed by the white wine. To do this, pour the alcohol into the dish and light with a match, keeping your head and hair well back. Let the flames flare up then die down. Continue to cook until the alcohol burns off and reduces down until completely gone, then add 3 litres (3 quarts) water and the fish bones or stock cubes.
Simmer the stock for no longer than 45 minutes, using a hand blender to blitz it after 30 minutes (yes, shells and bones included) to extract as much flavour as possible out of every ingredient. After 45 minutes, pass through a very fine sieve into another pot. You should have about 2 litres (2 quarts) of intense, flavoursome shellfish stock. Add the saffron and reduce the heat to simmer until needed.
Roughly chop the squid tube, wings and tentacles.
Place your paella or wide frying pan over the highest heat with the olive oil, chopped squid and salt. Let the water from the squid evaporate before adding the red pepper and green beans, stirring constantly so that all the ingredients brown nicely. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute before adding the sweet pimentón. Stir again and cook for 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes. If the garlic or pimentón start to burn, add the tomatoes a little earlier. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes to sear the rice and give a slightly crispier bite to the end dish. It will also mean the rice loses less starch, making the grain feel looser. Pour over the hot stock and give everything a good stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to ensure all the caramelization is incorporated into the stock. Taste the seasoning at this point – it should taste very salty. Adjust if necessary.
The rice should be ready in about 18 minutes. Put your timer on and remember this will be the last time you stir the rice. Now it is time to let it cook on its own, we will only need to manage the heat. Let it simmer over the highest heat for 10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced down to almost level with the rice, then reduce the heat to low and scatter the prawns, langoustines, mussels and/or clams over the top of the rice. Top with the reserved whole prawns. Season them lightly. They will steam gently above the paella.
Leave to cook for the remaining 8 minutes, until the water is gone and you can hear that the rice in the bottom of the pan is starting to fry. Put your ear close to the pan without burning your hair and let the paella talk to you. It should say, ‘I am getting crispier on the bottom, this is good but don’t let me burn please.’
After 5 minutes of resting time you should dig in. As the Spanish say, ‘Rice doesn’t wait for anyone; everyone should wait at the table for the rice to come.’
Recipe excerpted with permission from Spanish Made Simple by Omar Allibhoy, published by Quadrille May 2017
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