The Social Spanish Paella
Linguists believe that the word ‘paella’ originated from the name of the pan it is made in – the Latin term ‘patella’, a flat plate on which offerings were made to the Gods.
When we first moved to Spain, our community was lucky enough to have a traditional Spanish paella cooked for us by several Spanish residents from Algorfa.
These ‘natives’ arrived with a big bag of sand which they spread over an area, 9ft in circumference, with a 4 inch depth, on the top of our lovely poolside floor surface. Then, on top of the sand, a big bonfire was built to cook our paella. Amazingly, reassurances that the floor surface would not be affected by the heat of the fire, turned out to be correct! But I doubt we’d ever dare cook in such a way ourselves.
A visit to the ‘paella pan stall’ at Zoco market, resulted in us buying the perfect community sized paella pan for cooking up a real social Spanish paella. The owner of the stall will advise you which size paella pan to buy, and what gas burner would suit.
Here is our community’s ‘paella set up’:
The pan stands on a special paella gas burner, Our gas burner consists of three different rings, all three working separately from each other. For instance, we started our paella by cooking the ingredients on the inner burner, then as the volume of ingredients grew the middle burner was sparked into action. Finally, the outside burner was turned on – using the whole area of the pan for cooking.
Chicken and Chorizo Paella – for 20 people
(Adjust as necessary)
- 2 x 2.5kg chickens [11.00 euro]
- 1 chorizo sausage – cubed [3.90 euro]
- 5 litres chicken stock, ready prepared from the supermarket or home-made
- 200ml olive oil
- 4 onions – diced [0.99 euro]
- 3 peppers (green, yellow and red) – diced [1.99 euro]
- 10 cloves of garlic – chopped
- 5 heads of garlic – halved [1.39 euro]
- 4 cans chopped tomatoes [2.48 euro]
- 4 tablespoons tomato purée [1.13 euro]
- Vegetables, fresh or frozen [2.75 euro]
- 2 packets of rice (1 kilo packet) [1.24 euro]
- Optional seasoning: salt, red pepper, parsley, thyme, ground black pepper, saffron, ready prepared paella seasoning.
Cost: supermarket cost 26.87 euros, plus ingredients from the store cupboard, approximately calculates at under 1.50 euro per head!
1. Prepare the chickens by removing the skin where possible, cut off legs, thighs, breasts and wings. Cube breasts, and discard wing-tips. (You could use the leftover chicken carcasses and wing-tips to make some good chicken stock).
2. Season a warmed paella pan by spreading two tablespoons of olive oil over the surface of pan with a paper kitchen towel.
3. Heat the centre of the pan by turning on the small (inner) burner, and add 150ml of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic halves, cut side down. Cook the garlic in the oil till the cut side is brown, and the garlic cloves have softened. Remove the halves and keep to one side for garnishing.
4. Tip in the diced chorizo into the hot oil. Keep stirring the chorizo to avoid burning. When browned, move the chorizo to the edge, and cooler part of the pan.
5. Add the onions and garlic to the oil, again keep stirring to avoid burning. Cook until the onions are soft and lightly brown.
6. Add the peppers to the onion and garlic mix. When the peppers are softened, ‘rake’ the mixture to the cooler edge of the pan, where the chorizo is ‘waiting’.
7. In the hot oil, in the centre of the pan, add the chicken. You might need to turn on the medium (middle) burner to increase the cooking area. Add the rest of the oil if necessary, and cook the chicken until the outside is browned.
8. Turn on all three burners so the whole of the pan is being heated. Then add the chicken stock, tinned tomatoes, vegetables, and tomato purée. Taste for seasoning.
9. Turn all three burners to low, and simmer until the chicken is tender, and falling off the bone. You might need to keep adding water as the liquid will evaporate.
10. Taste, and season as necessary prior to adding the rice. We got a little carried away at this stage, and added two bottles of white wine, and more of the cooked garlic (see 3 above) – panic set in by some that we didn’t have enough garlic!
11. Add the rice – generally it is ‘one kilo of rice per 10 people’.
12. At this point, recruit as many people as possible to help stir the paella. The paella will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn if not careful. Though any gently toasted ‘bits’ are a delicacy in Spain; this is known as the socarrat.
13. When the rice is softened and cooked. Turn off the heat, and cover with foil. Let the paella relax for about half an hour.
After the half hour, remove the foil and garnish with lemons and the cooked garlic heads.
Don’t forget to pat yourselves on the back for making such a delicious paella!
You can make delicious paella from a range of foods.
In our Valencian region, making a rabbit and snail paella is traditional.