If you like Paella but think it’s too difficult to make at home then think again. This fantastically delicious Paella (pronounced pah-ey-uh) recipe, courtesy of celebrity chef Miguel Maestre, is so easy that you will make it again and again.
I had always thought Paella needed lots of stirring as Risotto does. It seemed like too much effort so I had never tried to cook it at home. That is until a couple of years ago when I saw Miguel demonstrate his version of this classic Spanish dish at a Food Show. I asked if I could pass on his recipe to my audience and he graciously agreed. I now cook Paella at least once a month.
I have been saving this recipe for a future printed Easy Read Recipes book but figured you may as well enjoy it now.
Ingredients Shopping for Paella a la Maestre
Piquillo peppers are usually found in the bottled vegetable section of the supermarket – next to the bottled olives and artichokes. They are red in colour and elongated in shape.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Avoid the overpriced brands in the supermarket and instead buy your saffron threads online, at a market stall, or in a speciality shop for European and/or Indian foods. A small pinch of saffron adds brilliant colour, aroma, and flavour to otherwise bland grains. It is described as earthy yet sweet. This dish will still be good if you leave out the saffron but not as good as it could be. I use a pinch for everyday meals and a teaspoon for special occasions.
Spanish style Chorizo is a lightly spiced and smoked sausage that adds a necessary flavour to this dish. It is now possible to find Chorizo that does not have the nitrates that we have been warned against eating. The brand I buy in Australia is the “D’Orsogna 100% Natural Chorizo”. I find it at Woolworths. It is touted as nitrate and gluten-free.
I find my Spanish Bomba rice at a speciality European food store. Bomba is the very best to use, however, at a pinch, a short-grain or Arborio rice can be used as a substitute (just don’t tell Miguel). As this dish is not stirred, there is less chance of the Arborio rice becoming creamy as in Risotto.
Of course, the chicken stock is best if homemade, but if not, use a quality real stock that does not contain unnecessary additives. In Australia, Maggie Beer’s chicken stock is one of the better choices. Beware of the “chicken style” stocks.
Using a Marinara Mix is convenient, however, choosing your own seafood mix will make this dish more to your taste. For example, I love seafood but not the mussels that are usually found in a Marinara Mix. A seafood market is always the best place to find the freshest seafood. I would avoid the supermarket Marinara Mix as it could be preserved in a sulphite solution that some people, including me, are allergic to. Instead, try choosing a mix of local, wild-caught seafood.
Cooking Tips for Paella a la Maestre
“The Spanish say that the rice should be only as thick as the width of one finger and spread in an even layer,” says Chef Maestre. If the pan is too crowded the rice will cook on the bottom and not the top.
The time it takes for the rice to become tender will vary depending on your choice of cookware, stovetop, and whether you are using Bomba or Arborio rice. After the 10 minute mark, keep checking every couple of minutes. I have found it can take up to 20 minutes. Add more stock if the Paella is starting to dry out before the rice is properly cooked.
If you like peas, as I do, then add up to 1 cup.
Creating the “soccarrada” at the bottom is a necessary step that will make your Paella more authentic. Maestre says the crisp, golden layer that forms on the bottom of paella is regarded as a highly prized delicacy in Spanish households.
Photo by Annie Spratt