Senora Gonzalez is my friend Amanda's mum - and this is her paella. When she came to Australia from Madrid in 1973, she brought her seven paellera (paella pans) on the plane. They range in size from 2 to 75 serves, but when I suggested we make a small paella together, she scoffed at the idea of cooking anything that would feed fewer than 12. When I asked if I could make a little film of her cooking her paella, far from being secretive or shy, she smiled her broad, generous smile and told me she wants everyone to know how to make a proper paella!
Making (but perhaps not pronouncing) paella (pa-e-ya) is actually easier than one might think. First, you need a proper paellera. The pan must be wide and shallow, with splayed sides, and a very slight dip in the middle. This helps to ensure the rice cooks in a thin layer at the bottom of the pan - where the flavour lives. It also means more socarrat (the crispy crust of rice at the bottom of the pan which is considered the prize of a well-made paella). It should *not* be non-stick, cast iron, nor have a lid! Next, the heat must be evenly distributed. This is why traditional paella is an outdoor dish; usually cooked either on a special gas burner specifically designed to fit the flat, wide paella pan, atop a large barbecue, or even over a bed of coals. The rice (Spanish, of course) should be rounded and short, able to absorb a lot of liquid, and remain dry and separate when cooked. The stock must be flavourful and homemade, 'please no stock cubes', implores Senora Gonzalez. And finally, like risotto, the paella needs to reposar (rest), to allow the rice to finish cooking and the flavours to mingle and unfold.
Senora Gonzalez's Paella with Alioli
Serves 12 - 16
for the Paella-
250 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 kilo free-range chicken 'mid' wings
2 white or brown onions, very finely diced
1 - 2 red or green capsicums, de-seeded and diced
2 - 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (400 g) can crushed tomatoes
1 kilo baby calamari, cleaned and cut into rings / small pieces
1 kilo medium green prawns, shelled, heads and shells reserved
10 cups (2.5 litres) homemade chicken stock
Generous pinch saffron
4 cups (800 g) "Calasparra" rice
24 large green prawns
12 green mussels
1 jar (285 g) whole piquillo peppers, cut into 3 lengthways
2 cups (250 g) frozen baby peas
1 - 2 lemons cut into wedges, plus more for serving
for the Alioli -
1 whole free-range egg + one egg yolk
3 - 4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
200 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
It makes sense to start with the alioli: the easiest way is the put everything in a measuring jug and use a stick blender to emulsify the egg and oil. It should be so thick that it will stay put when the jug is upturned. Cover and store in the fridge for up to two days.
Warm the reserved prawn heads and shells in a frying pan with a little olive oil. When they are fragrant and coloured, add them to the chicken stock along with a good pinch of saffron. Cover and simmer very gently while you prepare the paella.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a 46 cm (12 serve) paellera over medium - high heat. Add chicken wings and season generously with sea salt. When the chicken is brown on all sides (about 8 - 10 minutes), lower the heat a little, add the sofrito (onion, capsicum and garlic), season with a little more sea salt, and fry gently until very soft (5 or so minutes). Add tomato and cook for another minute or two, before adding the calamari. Now increase the heat because the calamari will release a lot of water and this will cause the temperature to drop. After a few minutes, add the shelled prawns and cook until just-coloured (2 - 3 minutes).
Strain the warm stock, add it to the pan and bring the sofregit to the boil. Add the rice and use a wooden spoon to gently 'wriggle' and spread the rice evenly into the stock. From now on you must not stir the paella - you don't want to disturb the socarrat magic happening at the bottom of the pan.
Let everything bubble away for about 10 minutes, then lay the remaining prawns and mussels carefully over the top of the rice, nestling them into the stock. Simmer for a further 10 minutes. Taste the rice which should be al dente, check the seasoning, and dot with the peas and slices of piquillo pepper. Top with lemon wedges, cover the paella with a small tablecloth or clean tea towels and leave to rest for about 5 minutes. Serve with alioli and more lemon wedges.