Saturday, August 04, 2007

Summer paella - with asparagus

When we first arrived here, Adelina next-door would regularly give us tasty samplings of the local food.

She is not a brilliant international chef, but she is a great local cook and wherever possible cooks using seasonal produce and as cheaply as possible. I've learned a lot from her.

So one Sunday, after we had been here a while, she gave us two huge plates of paella.

The rice was great. The peas were frozen (out of season at the time), and we don't eat prawns. The dogs liked them though.

Paella is not one of the things I have learned to cook from her. But I have learned to cook paella while I have been here. How can you live in Spain and not cook paella?

Tip 1
A good pan.

Mine is cast iron and cost a fortune when I indulged myself buying pans for our Rayburn in the UK (to be the subject of another post in itself...).

Tip 2
Find the right rice.

I use a Spanish rice from the Ebro delta. It's organic and it is redondo (round). It works well but other cheaper rices are just as good. But they need to be for paella.

I made paella a few times in the UK with all manner of things in it. Chicken, rabbit, prawns, fish.... far too many conflicting ingredients. Like a lot of things in Spanish cooking the simpler the better.

So today we had a summer paella. I was lacking imagination and the good thing about it is that it is one-pan cooking so Washing-Up Partner doesn't moan.

I cheated on the local ingredients. The asparagus is imported. There is a bit of a hungry gap here in summer (hot and dry), so inspiration flags a bit and the asparagus is a nice change.

The fresh onions are local, the garlic is from Málaga, as is the saffron, the tomatoes (not in pic) were from a neighbour, and the basil and parsley are out of the garden.

This is enough for two people for a meal, or four as a side dish/starter/intermediary course. With a bit left over for the dog's breakfast because he likes rice and veggies.

Fry garlic, onion, (I used leek too), and basil briefly on a low heat.

Then add the asparagus, chopped into small pieces, obviously leaving the tips intact. If the heat is too high add a drop of water.

Otherwise add the rice and fry briefly before adding more water. I use bottled. I also boiled the trimmings of the stalks in bottled water and used that as a vegetable stock. The chickens then get the remaining cooked stalks.

You can use any sort of stock, but because this is based on asparagus I wouldn't recommend anything too strong or it will detract from the flavour. A very light chicken stock would be the most I would suggest.

I use a mix of a risotto/paella method. That's partly because the bottled gas here has a fierce heat, so adding cold water occasionally stops the rice burning or sticking. If I put all boiling water in straightaway it would be a disaster. Different fuels need different methods. I don't use a sofrito ie frying the tomato with the onion. I add it later after the rice and water as I think it gives a cleaner taste.

Saffron. Azafran.
I discovered after a while that Adelina used food colouring which was why her rice was violently yellow. I have no idea whether I can really tell the difference but I snobbily stick to saffron.

I am not very economical with it either. But I can say after trying various methods of trying to impregnate a golden colour into the rice that adding 3 strands to boiling water in a jug does not work for me.

Far better to put a sprinkling into the pan at an early stage of the frying and later on the rice just suddenly turns a sunkissed colour. I don't really want it to look like I have put in three tablespoons of turmeric, but I want some colour.

Finally - on the risotto line - I think this is equally good without tomato, but with a sprinkling of Parmesan or a similar hard cheese of choice. Again not too much to drown the asparagus.

I've still got a fridge full of berenjenas - but I really don't think they go with asparagus. Berenjenas recipes to follow.


Kerrio said...

We do paella here on the BBQ - which might sound odd but we have onee of those gas kettle drum types that comes with a paella dish.

No Asparagus though - don't like asparagus!

(And our version is not for veggies!)

Blue said...

Mouth watering!
Just had breakie, but now thinking about supper... I think fresh garden peas would be addition I'd add. Better check larder, before heeading out for walk.


Frasypoo said...

That looks so good and seems so simple.Will need to try it soon

Dog lover said...

Yum! The paella looks sooooo good!

Thanks for the recipe and great photos!

P.S. - I heard that onions are not good for doggies, so you might want to keep them out of Pippa's dish.

Blue said...

Hi Kate

Ment to leave this message yesterday.
I asked my internet writer friend BJ to write a story for Oscar. She has, its' @:-
Tissues are required, but its a lively tribute. She even included my Springer Spanial

Best wishes

Balboa & Mommy said...

that looks so divine, I have to try that recipe.


Katherine and Pippa, said...

In response to Blue's comment - fresh peas would be good - but they are out of season here.

They are an autumn/spring thing - when we tend to live on them.

The other veg (in small quantities) that works well with the delicate summer flavours is courgette/zucchini.