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Henry's Dad's Paella
Is there anything more head-turning than walking past a vast, sizzling cast iron pan of paella at a food festival? We're struggling to think of anything. This Spanish classic is loved by many, mastered by few. However, we reckon Henry’s dad might’ve cracked it. Hot tip from the man himself: paella doesn’t need constant stirring (unlike its Italian cousin, risotto). The rice needs to stay firm (not sticky) so try not to stir it once the stock is added so that a delicious, light-golden crust forms on the base. Paella also needs lemon wedges for squeezing. That’s a non-negotiable.
- 1 large red pepper
- 1 small onion
- 1 large garlic clove
- 150g cherry tomatoes
- 150g fine green beans
- 10 sprouting broccoli stems
- 1⁄2 x 400g tin artichoke hearts
- Generous pinch of saffron
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 litre good-quality vegetable stock
- 1⁄2 x 400g tin butter beans
- 280g paella rice
- 1–2 lemons
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- Large frying or paella pan
- Pestle and mortar (or use a mug and teaspoon)
- Kettle (boiled)
- Clean tea towels
Grill on high, or griddle on the highest heat.
Cut the pepper in half and cut out the stem and seeds. Lay the pieces under a hot grill, skin side up (or on a hot griddle, skin side down) and heat until the skin blackens. Transfer to a plastic bag and seal inside. Leave to cool, then remove the pepper and peel away the skin. Cut the flesh into 1.5cm strips.
Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Quarter the tomatoes. Trim the green beans and cut off the heads of the broccoli. Cut the beans and broccoli stems into 1–2cm pieces. Quarter the artichoke hearts. Set all the chopped veggies aside for later.
Put the saffron threads in a pan and place it on a medium heat. Let it warm for about 1 minute to dry the saffron, then transfer to a mortar. Add a generous pinch of salt and pound with the pestle to grind them together.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan along with the red pepper. Cook for 10–15 minutes, turning the pieces of pepper occasionally, until soft but not browned. Remove from the pan and set aside about 6 strips. Cut the rest into 1–2cm pieces.
Add the onion to the pan along with another tablespoon of oil. Cook for 10–15 minutes, until the onion has softened and browned a little, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes more, stirring from time to time, until the tomatoes turn mushy. Stir in the salty saffron threads, paprika, turmeric and a generous pinch of black pepper. Add the stock to the pan, turn up the heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium.
Stir in the green beans, butter beans, artichoke and red pepper pieces (reserving the strips). Increase the heat to bring the pan back to a simmer, then lower to medium. Taste the paella liquid – it should have a good ‘stock’ taste that’s a little too salty, so add a little more salt to the pan if necessary.
Sprinkle the rice evenly over the pan. Bring it back to the boil, then reduce the heat to a fast simmer (medium-high). Continue to simmer for 5 minutes without stirring. If you are using a large pan on a smaller burner you may need to move the pan around on the burner occasionally so that the rice cooks evenly across the pan.
Decorate the surface of the paella with the red pepper strips and broccoli florets. Continue to cook without stirring for 10 minutes. Turn the broccoli a few times so that it cooks through, and check that the rice is still evenly distributed – you might need to use a spoon to move the rice in the pan.
After 10 minutes, test the rice by biting a few grains. They should be translucent but al dente. If the pan starts to dry out before the rice is cooked, add 100ml boiling water by drizzling it through a strainer over the surface of the mixture (don’t just pour it in). If there’s a lot of liquid visible when the rice is nearly cooked, consider either spooning some off or turning up the heat (a little bit of burning at the bottom of the pan is considered a good thing – the Valencians call it ‘socarrat’).
Once the rice is cooked enough, give it a last short burst of heat to get any remaining liquid really bubbling, then turn off the heat and cover the top of the pan with foil and a couple of clean tea towels. Leave it for 10–15 minutes – this improves the taste and texture and allows the rice to absorb any excess stock. Cut the lemons into wedges and serve alongside the paella.