So I’ve been in Spain for 2 weeks now and you’ll be happy to know I have managed to tear myself away from the markets and my little kitchen and venture out to a couple of restaurants and a wine tasting. Actually even the wine tasting had amazing tapas, but I digress.
I haven’t yet found anywhere to try the most famous and possibly most abused of Spanish dishes – Paella. Not that there aren’t plenty of restaurants touting a mind boggling number of Paella options. More that I’m being a little precious about my first Paella experience this time and would rather give it a miss than experience a mediocre version.
Paella can be even more difficult to do well than Italian risotto. Not only does one have to juggle the cooking times of the various inclusions which tend to be seafood, there is only one chance to get the amount of liquid correct. Then you have to nail the cooking temperature so that it’s high enough to leave the socarrat – the prized crust on the bottom of the pan, but not so fierce that it burns before the rice is cooked.
I’ve found, there’s so much more to the Spanish love affair with rice than just paella. And thankfully for us minimalist home cooks, the more simple Spanish rice dishes are much less demanding. Just brown an onion, add rice, flavourings and liquid and simmer gently, stirring when you remember – nothing like high maintenance risotto that chains you to the stove.
And did I mention it’s a great excuse to use some fabulous Spanish chorizo? I’ve long been a devotee of the holy sausage, but I wasn’t prepared for how much more intense Spanish chorizo would be. It is a flavour explosion of deep smoky salty porky goodness – makes Australian chorizo look as bland as a frankfurter. Another reason to stay in Spain.
I am still keen to try a good Paella so if you have any recommendations, would love to hear about them in the comments.
arroz con chorizo y pimentos
(spanish rice with chorizo and peppers)
Inspired by Simone Ortega and her quintessential book on Spanish home cooking – 1080 recipes.
It’s up to you whether you make this rice focused or more about the chorizo. I used only 2 chorizo and really enjoyed letting the rice shine but by all means add 4 chorizo if you’re feeding particularly hungry carnivores.
If you can’t get your hands on pimentos you can either leave them out or char and peel a couple of red capsicum (peppers).
This would also make a lovely vegetarian (even vegan!) meal. Just leave out the chorizo, substitute vegetable stock for the water, and toss through a can of drained chickpeas when you add the pimentos.
3T olive oil
1 large onion, peeled & chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled & thinly sliced
2 – 4 chorizo sliced
1C Calasparra rice (or Arborio)
1 x 400g (14oz) can tomatoes, chopped
2t smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 jar pimentos (about 4), sliced
Heat oil in a large saucepan and cook onion over a medium low heat, covered and stirring occasionally until soft but not browned. Add garlic and chorizo and cook for another minute or so. Add rice, tomatoes, paprika and water and bring to a simmer.
Cook stirring occasionally until the water is absorbed and the rice is soft – 20 minutes mas ou menos (more or less). If it becomes a little dry before the rice is cooked, add a little more water.
Stir through pimentos, season well and allow to heat through.
Divide between serving bowls and serve hot.