She knew it. A real paella is cooked on fire, in the special pan, with bomba rice, with fish and shrimp that was fished early the same morning, with ripe tomatoes cut straight from the garden. Served by the sea. She knew the real paella, she had eaten the real paella. Yes, by the sea, the salt still on her skin after swimming, the sun shining hard on a cloudless sky whose light made her eyes tear. The sea she was dreaming of in the long, gray, rainy days of northern summers, that were summers only in name. At their best, they were more of a Mediterranean spring: it was glorious, but it wasn’t summer!
She was living in a landlocked state. Somewhere where most old people have never even seen the sea and would never see it. Lakes were pretty, sure, green fields too. Who could complain at the view of swans swimming, the Alps, the meadows full of daisies, the pretty wooden houses? She could! She was grateful of all the beauty that surrounded her, sure she was. But she needed the sea, she needed her broad salty horizons. She got them only on holidays, 5 weeks per year. In the meantime, she was walking next to lakes, hearing cow bells and cooking fake paellas in a wok, with arborio rice and frozen shrimp. They still tasted amazing!
Fake Paella Mixta
serves 4-6 mains
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 3 table spoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 horn peppers, sliced (I used 2 green and 2 red)
- 1 small chilly pepper, sliced (optional)
- 300 grams cherry tomatoes, halved (or normal ripe tomatoes, diced)
- 1 big pinch of saffron (get yourselves Greek Kozani saffron, it’s great!)
- 1/2 tea spoon chilly flakes (optional)
- salt & pepper to taste
- 3 cups of arborio rice
- 3 and 3/4 cups of chicken stock (homemade is always better)
- 200 grams shrimp
- 300 grams chicken breast, thinly sliced
1. First make your chicken stock. If you use store-bought, warm it up in a sauce pan. Once simmering, take it off the heat, throw in the big pinch of saffron, stir and cover with lid. 10 mins later it will be ready to use-let the saffron threads in the stock for a stronger saffron taste in the paella.
2. Heat the olive oil in a wok (or a special paella pan if you own one) on medium high. Add the onion, the garlic and the chilly flakes and stir for 3-4 mins, until softened. Add peppers and chilly pepper and keep stiring until they start to soften, another 5 mins. Add tomatoes and keep stiring until the tomatoes start disolving in a sauce. Add the rice and stir well for 2-3 mins, so that the rice is covered well with the vegetable juices.
3. Add the chicken stock to the wok and stir. Increase the heat and bring to simmer. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Once it simmers, bring the heat down to medium high and do not stir anymore, so that the rice on the bottom gets crispy and slightly burnt, like it’s supposed to be. Add the chicken slices; make sure they are well-covered in the simmering rice so that they cook properly. Cover with aluminium foil and let cook for 10 mins. Uncover, add the shrimp. Check if the rice is still hard; if needed add a bit more chicken stock. Cover again with the foil and let cook for another 10 mins. Take the pan off the heat and let it aside for 10 mins, covered.
4. Open a chilled white wine. Take plates and lots of napkins, cause paella-eating is meant to be messy. Take the whole pan to the table, no need to walk back and forth to the kitchen. Serve warm with lemon slices. This does not taste fake at all, does it?
Notes: The chilly flakes and the chilly pepper are optional, and by no means traditional. This is a fake paella after all, so I’ll do what I want 🙂 I love peppers, as you may already know, that’s why I used 4. Please, please, please use fresh shrimp if you can find it, and let it whole, the heads, the tails and the legs and all. That’s where its real flavour is! The paella tastes best warm & fresh, but leftovers make an excellent lunch on a rainy Monday. 😉