The Versatile Paella

When someone mentions Spanish cuisine, most likely Paella comes to mind. A lot of non-Spaniards regard it as Spain’s national dish when in fact, most Spaniards view it as a regional Valencia dish. Mainly there are three types of paella:  Valencian paella ( paella valenciana), seafood paella ( paella de marisco) and mixed paella ( paella mixta), but there are literally hundreds of recipes and each cook has their own favorite one. I think we could say that the mixed paella is the most popular and what comes to mind among non-Spaniards and served mostly in Spanish-themed restaurants.

Paella is very versatile. It is one of the things I like about the dish. You can substitute hard to find ingredients with more readily available ones. Having said that, I try hard to stick with what’s on the list of ingredients, at least the main ones which give the distinctive flavor of a particular paella recipe. One thing I am particular with when cooking paella is having the right pan, the paellera. It is traditionally round, shallow and made of polished steel with two handles. I know this may sound shallow but when I bought my paellera, I made sure it was made in Spain. It gives me the satisfaction knowing I have something authentic, paella-cooking wise. 🙂

Another essential item I am particular with when I cook  paella would be the rice I use. Of course you may use arborio rice if the short-grain Spanish bomba rice is not available. But I would go out of my way finding bomba rice first. It expands in width, not it length and able to absorb three times its volume in liquid, thus making it the best rice to use when making paella. Another good thing about bomba rice is when cooked, the grains do not stick together and remain separate. It is a bit more pricey than the other types of rice but I really think it is worth it.

That's my paellera. The woman who sold me the pan told me not to worry when the pan starts getting black. Part of the "authentic" experience she said. 🙂

Since I have tried enough mixed paella, I thought I would try something different so I searched and found this recipe from a Spanish recipe website. The original recipe is for 8 people but since I have a small paellera ( 30cm) and there are only three of us, I adjusted the  quantity of  ingredients. I opted to try the paella with clams, serrano ham and chorizo sausages. Again, try your best to get the best Spanish chorizo and Serrano ham available. They are a bit more pricey but I promise you, it will be worth it. In one of the local deli shops where I got the Serrano ham from, it sells for $99.00/kilogram. It sounds a lot I know but it will be worth every cent you paid the ham for.

Buy quality Spanish chorizo and ham. The distinct flavor they give will make a difference in your paella.

Now this is the part where I made a bit of substitution. The original recipe calls for canned clams. Unfortunately, the local deli ran out of stock so I used fresh vongole instead. I know vongole are mostly used in Italian dishes but hey, still a clam and look at those gorgeous shell colors. 🙂

So, let’s start cooking. For 4 serves, you will need the following :

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 200g Spanish chorizo sausage, crumbled and with casing removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 medium red/green capsicum (pepper), cut into strips
  • 2-3 small tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped (see tip on how to do this at the end of cooking method)
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp saffron powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • One 14oz can clams, drained (or fresh clams about 200g)
  • 200g serrano ham, cut into thin strips
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • lemon wedges, to serve

For dishes with many ingredients, always best to organize them before you start cooking.


Heat the oil in paellera over medium heat. Add and sauté onion for 5 minutes or until onion begins to soften.

Add the garlic and cook for several minutes more. Drop in the chorizo sausage and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Mix in the capsicums (peppers) and tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and cook for further 10 minutes.

Stir in the rice, increase the heat to medium and sauté for 5 minutes.

Pour in the broth, turmeric, saffron, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 15 minutes.

Add in the clams, ham and parsley and cook for a further 7 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.

Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and lemon wedges and serve.

Straight from stove top on to your dining table, have a feast!

How to peel tomatoes:

Remove any stickers on tomatoes, wash them and remove any stem. Cut a very shallow X on the bottom of tomatoes.

Prepare a bowl of ice water and set aside. Bring to a boil a pot of water and drop tomatoes in it. Remove tomatoes from pot after 30 seconds or when skins start to peel.

Let tomatoes sit in ice bath for at least 5 minutes. This allows for tomatoes to cool down all the way through and stops the cooking process the boiling water began.

Peel tomatoes with your hands. If skin is stubborn, you can use a sharp paring knife to remove skin that will not budge. Be careful not to squeeze the tomato.

This entry was published on February 9, 2012 at 2:37 am. It’s filed under cooking, food, KITCHEN GADGETS, recipes, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

14 thoughts on “The Versatile Paella

  1. One of my biggest favourites : ))

  2. I love your pan and I think that is probably the best look paella I have ever seen – it is truly beautiful.

  3. Wow, yum!! I agree with frugalfeeding…your paella is ridiculously good looking!!

  4. Yummy! I’ve yet to try this dish here in Vancouver but boy am I searching lol 😀

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