Beachside Paella


A standard frying pan won’t do for this, it’s time to bring the ‘big boy’ out

Let’s face it, with tightening restrictions around Covid there’s not a lot to smile about right now. As the nights draw in sun, sand and sea seems a distant memory but food can have a positive effect in lifting your spirits, even if it’s just for an hour or so. I needed a focus to perk me up and Beachside Paella from the Hairy Dieters was just the ticket, washed down with copious amounts of vino (not recommended for the diet). It didn’t trick me into thinking I was in Spain, but it was a welcome distraction from being locked down in Cheshire!

A word of caution, you do need a f***ing huuuuugggggeeee pan to fit all of the ingredients in this mammoth dish. I was a geek and purchased my own paella pan – I got a good one from Amazon for £40, but you can get them cheaper. But why skimp on price? It’s not as if you’re going to Spain anytime soon, right?

As for the taste, I absolutely loved this dish. It says it serves 6 at 358 calories per portion. But I think the reality is that if there’s less than 6 of you the pan is getting cleaned out because it tastes so good. My ears are still ringing from the bollocking I received off my wife for picking the chorizo and chicken leftovers out of the pan and leaving just the rice. Was it worth it? Absolutely! If you want a dumbed-down, non-paella, but equally mighty fine one-pan dish, I’d recommend southern-style jambalaya, also from the Hairy Dieters.

Recipe: Beachside Paella

Calories: 358 per portion

Serves: 6

Book: Hairy Dieters – How to Love Food and Lose Weight

Prep time: Approx 45 minutes

Cooking time: Approx 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cut in half)
  • 75g chorizo (skinned and cut into 5mm slices)
  • 2 medium onions (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 red pepper (quartered, deseeded and sliced)
  • 1 yellow pepper (quartered, deseeded and sliced)
  • 150g green beans (trimmed and cut into 2cm lengths)
  • 3 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 good pinches saffron threads
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 175g paella rice
  • 1 litre hot chicken stock (made with 1 chicken stock cube)
  • 500g live mussels (well scrubbed and beards removed)
  • 1 medium squid (cleaned and sliced into rings or 225g prepared squid rings
  • 12 raw king prawns, peeled or shells on (thawed if frozen)
  • Flaked sea salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges (for squeezing)

Cost per portion: Approx £3.02

Method:

Heat the oil in a 38cm paella pan – ideally non-stick. A paella pan is best, but if you don’t have one, use a very wide, shallow non-stick saucepan, flameproof casserole dish or sauté pan.

Place the pan over a medium heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and black pepper and fry them for about five minutes, turning every now and then until lightly coloured. Add the chorizo and cook for 30 seconds more, turning once. Transfer the chicken and chorizo to a large heatproof bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan.

Add the onions to the pan and fry gently for 4–5 minutes until softened and very lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the peppers and green beans to the onions and cook for two minutes until they are beginning to soften. Stir in the garlic, smoked paprika, saffron, bay leaf and rice and cook for 1–2 minutes until the rice is glistening all over.

Return the chicken and chorizo to the pan, along with any juices. Stir well, then pour in the chicken stock and season with black pepper. Stir once or twice and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Tip the mussels into the partly cooked rice mixture and stir once more, making sure they are well tucked into the hot rice and steaming liquid. Return to a simmer and cook for three minutes or until most of the mussels have opened, stirring occasionally.

Scatter the squid and prawns over the top of the paella and stir well. Continue cooking for 4–5 minutes until the squid and prawns are cooked, the rice is tender and almost all the liquid has been absorbed. The prawns should be completely pink when cooked.

It’s important not to keep stirring after the squid and prawns are added – you want the rice to become lightly browned and a bit sticky at the sides of the pan as this adds flavour. Keep an eye on the heat though, as you don’t want the rice to burn. Add a splash more water if the paella begins to look very dry before the rice is ready. Pick out any mussels that haven’t opened by the end of the cooking time and chuck them away. Serve hot with lemon wedges for squeezing.

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