Friday, 25 January 2013

Rosa's Paella

I tried to post this once before. I can't explain it, but I got teary and thought I would come back to it. I have been lucky enough have spent long hot Summers, chilly winters and beautiful Easter holidays over the last 25 years, here in my parents home. More recently I have been cooking out there for the family business and however stressful and tiring it can be, nothing beats shopping in the markets, picking fresh herbs from the garden and making people smile through cooking up an Andalusian storm. Cristie and I have such a laugh in the kitchen and I get the feeling the Spanish waiters think the way I run a kitchen is mad, but we all have a giggle together.
Out of the pool and onto the tractor for a bumpy ride around the farm with Pepe. 
Meet our Spanish Mum and Dad, Rosa and Joaquin (neighbours). I wrote here about Joaquin and my Spanish Easter before.
Well today's post is about this wonderful woman right here. My memories of Rosa from my earliest years are of running away from her! She used to hold one of my cheeks, hard in between her thumb and index finger and give it a good shake. It was a gesture of such affection but, I dreaded that.
I don't know when you'll next be cooking your 25 person paella or how useful this recipe will be to you but it is a fantastic dish for a family gathering but the tips really do translate for smaller paellas.

Rosa's recipe which I will translate at bottom of post

I have eaten more paella than I can count over the years and everyone agrees that nothing lives up to Rosa's. I felt genuinely honoured to have spent the afternoon watching her cook and note the little things she did that weren't easy to translate. It was after this memorable day, that I realised that it was only Rosa, standing behind that pan who pours her love into this dish for those who eat it, who can make it taste the way she does. A family rule is to add another handful of rice than needed to the pan for the 'unexpected guest' this just sums up what I love about the Spanish.
First things first. It's important to buy the shellfish on the same day as you are cooking and serving your paella. This is what makes cooking a paella a day long job! Rosa cooks all her shell fish seperately and keeps all the water that the mussels/prawns/clams have simmered in, to use as stock. Before the paella pan comes out, you need to make a sofrito. This is the flavour base. Saute peppers, onion, bay, garlic, tinned tomatoes, meat and squid until thickened.

Add the sofrito to the paella pan with the parsley mix below.
Yes, that is 2 heads of garlic in there. Blitzed with a cup of water, parsley, 3 stock cubes and whole black pepper corns. Blitz until you can't hear the pepper.
This is where I tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing is wasted. Just like you might swirl water around in an emptied tin of tomatoes and add it to your cooking, Rosa does this to every container that has had food in it. Here she scrapes every last bit of sofrito flavour out of the pan, and she then rinsed her blender that she had used for the parsley in this water before adding it as 'stock'.

Then all that shell fish cooking liquid is strained and added.
Another top tip is to sort your mussels. Pick out the most handsome, plump mussels for decorating the pan later on and put aside. Then pick the meat out of the remaining shells and add to the pan. This is wear I was told off for leaving those white suction pad things in the shells. I have always discarded that bit with the shells but, you guessed it, they get scraped in and put in the pan too!

 The mussels and clams have been added with saffron and given a good stir. Next, the rice. 100g per person.
This is where Javier, Rosa's son comes in and helps with the stirring, the smells coax everyone into the kitchen at some point for a stir! Here the peas are added. It is really important they are canned peas, they taste totally different to fresh peas. Also add a small glass of white wine here, not too much or apparently the rice goes soft.
I absolutely love this next pic. The light pouring into the cool kitchen, Joaquin has been waiting in his van, with the engine running outside ready to take the paella over to ours. He is wondering what is taking so long. Rosa ignores him and keeps talking to me. Javier's friend, on standby to help carry the paella out the house. The paella, bubbling away on top of this otherwise redundant washing machine waiting to be adorned.
After a while going untouched, Javi holds the handles and shakes the pan to level the rice. This means the socarrat goes undisturbed. The socarrat is the layer of toasted rice that gets stuck on the bottom of the pan which is a real treat!
 Everyone gets stuck in with the decoration.
If it's for a birthday Rosa will spell out FELIZ CUMPLEANOS with the roasted peppers.
Can you see the circle of pepper in the middle? That's for the lemon and parsley crown that gets put on just before serving. 
Gracias Rosa, BESOS XXXXX

Translation, Paella for 25 people
1/3 kilo olive oil
2 heads of garlic
2 kilos of chicken thigh
4 tins of chopped tomato
1 tin of tinned peas
1 kilo of green peppers for sofrito
2 red peppers roasted for decoration
1/2 kilo of squid
1 kilo mussels
1 tbsp black pepper corns
2 big pinches saffron
4 stock cubes. The best equivalent in UK would be Kallo organic chicken.
Handful of parsley, with stalk
6 bay leaves
Prawns for decoration
Paella rice 100g per person
There was probably 3+ litres of stock added made from shell fish juices etc. 

Please let me know if you have any family/authentic recipes from overseas you want to share!


Miyuki Pleece said...

Wow Milli, this is more like a book than a blog. It is a great read, and it must have taken almost as long for you to put it together as it did for Rosa to make the paella. Well done!

good times tora said...

This is really lovely- thanks for sharing this. I haven't had a proper paella before, and after reading this, I think I am missing out!

thelittleloaf said...

Can I come and live in your house in Spain please? :-)

Milli said...

It's a dish that makes me immeasurably happy!

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