Simple Paella and even Simpler Sangria
We love nothing better than a good Barbecue. Add a few assorted friends, and an icy cold drink or two and we're in Suburban Heaven.
The only thing that makes Barbecues a bit of a trial in our neck of the woods is the very same thing that makes eating and drinking with friends under the Poinciana trees so appealing.
Summer, whilst being the ideal time to entertain outdoors, is also the time for sweltering heat, thunderstorms and being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Well, that's the case in our back yard anyway.
So my Paella and Sangria is a popular option. Of course, it's not as authentic as it could be, but gosh it tastes good all the same! We make a bit of a pantomime of assembling the Paella, involving everyone in the process. We all wear silly frilly aprons, and have maracas and castanets on the table, and shout "Ole`" quite often. It's all very foolish and more fun than a mouse in a bingo hall. And the end result tastes just as good, whether cooked on the Barbecue, or over an indoor hotplate.
I now have a waiting list for my next Paella Party...wanna come?
Here's how to do it…
First of all, make it clear to your friends that in order to eat, they must be involved. Give them all an apron, a surface upon which to chop and dice stuff, and tell them ahead of time that a bit of Flamenco dancing is the order of the day, so heels on shoes are mandatory.
Your equipment is:
A large flat bottomed skillet, heavy metal baking dish or paella pan if you're fortunate enough to have one via cultural heritage or a lucky garage sale find! Alternatively, your Paella can be cooked directly on your barbecue plate.
A knife, and slicing and dicing surface, preferably with a chopping board, for each person.
A large saucepan, for poaching your seafood and chicken if you're using it.
Forks or Splayds for consuming the finished product
Your ingredients are:
To serve 12
6 cups of short or medium grain rice
1 pinch Saffron threads or 1 teaspoon Imitation Saffron Powder
2 teaspoons Smoky Paprika
1 chicken breast, poached
250gms seafood marinara mix, poached in the same liquid with one sliced lemon added for flavour
1 small tin smoked mussels, drained
1 (800gm) tin of peeled tomatoes, diced and drained
2.25 litres of water, including the stock from the poached chicken and seafood
3 onions, peeled and diced
1 head of garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
I've found Paella to be a bit like Lasagna. Inexpensive to make with uncomplicated ingredients, but with a bit of preparation involved. Hence my decision to have a Paella Party. It's all hands on deck and lots of involvement from the troops, so the end result is always greatly appreciated.
My favourite way to achieve a 'fun' Paella party, is to bend the rules a little and prepare quite a bit in advance.
I poach the chicken and seafood first.
Bring four cups of water to the boil, adding a pinch of saffron threads or a teaspoon of imitation saffron powder. When the liquid is boiling, add the chicken breast and put a firm fitting lid on your pan. Switch the hotplate off, and allow the chicken to poach for 30 minutes. Do not lift the lid or your poaching of your chicken won't work!
After 30 minutes, remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and allow it to cool before slicing it across the grain and refrigerating it, covered, until you're ready to add it to the paella.
Bring the poaching liquid to the boil a second time, adding the lemon slices and the Marinara Mix and tinned, drained prawns, and cover firmly, and switch off again. Poach the seafood gently for 5-10 minutes until it changes colour and is not longer translucent in the middle, before removing it from the liquid and refrigerating it, covered, until ready for addition to the Paella.
Reserve all poaching liquid for cooking your rice.
To steam the rice, add the six cups of rice to a large saucepan with the poaching liquid from your chicken and seafood, plus sufficient to make the quantity up to 9 cups of liquid in total. Bring the lot to the boil, adding a teaspoon of salt if you wish, stir, and switch off after adding a firm fitting lid. Similarly to the chicken and seafood, do not disturb. After twenty minutes, you'll have perfectly cooked rice base for your paella. Refrigerate the saffron infused rice until you're ready to assemble your Paella.
These items complete your advance preparation and can be compiled up to 48 hours ahead of time.
Once your guests arrive and you've allotted frilly aprons, castanets, maracas, and slicing and dicing implements, the party is on!
First you need to cook the Sofrito which is the flavour base of the Paella.
So pour your oil onto your Barbecue plate or your pan or baking dish, and when steaming, add the peeled tomato, garlic, onion and Smoky Paprika. Cook this stirring it frequently, until it reduces to a thick paste with no visible liquid.
The next step is to combine the 'Sofrito' with your Saffron infused rice. This is truly the most important part of cooking the Paella as the 'Soccarat' which is the scrumptious golden crust that forms on the underside of the rice in the pan, dish or barbecue plate, is the true star of the meal.
Once the rice is added to your cooking implement, do not disturb it. I know you'll be tempted to stir or check it, but restrain yourself! If you start stirring, you'll end up with glug, not Paella.
Finally, arrange your poached seafood and chicken across the top of your Paella, cover with a lid or foil, and allow it to warm through.
If you've done your prep ahead of time, this is when you'll sit back and wait for the compliments.
The traditional and best way to serve Paella, is to eat it straight from the cooking vessel and this is where a true Paella Pan, baking dish or skittle comes into it's own. Placed in the centre of the table, guests eat directly from the pan, adding to the overall frivolity.
Of course, Paella and Sangria go together like Love and Marriage, so here's my Sangria recipe.
I like to add a seasonal flavour to my Sangria by adding stone fruit, but really it's another thing that's so flexible, it's really up to you.
For twelve serves:
2 bottles of red wine or red grape juice
2 bottles of soda water
2 oranges, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
4 nectarines, deseeded and cut into quarters
Pour all ingredients into a large bowl or divide between two jugs.
Serve with a smile and a fancy schmancy skirt.
I bet you anything that a Paella Party will become your new favourite way to entertain. I promise!