Don’t Dilly, Don’t Dali. Go to Cadaqués and Buy a Paella Pan.

Seafood paella (19 of 21)I love a bit of authenticity. Particularly so when it comes to my kitchen equipment. So when it came to getting my hands on a paella pan, I did my research. They are a shocking price here in Dublin. So, reluctantly, as you can guess, I got on a plane and flew to Spain. Now, there really is no point in seeking out the ‘real deal’ on the Costa del Sol. One is more likely to be served roast beef with Yorkshire pudding than any traditional Spanish dish down that neck of the woods. No, I took myself to the beautiful village of Cadaqués, on the north-east coast. The village was home to that creative genius and surrealist, Salvador Dali. What better place to buy one’s cookware?

Beautiful Cadaqués. That's the paella pan shop there on the left.

Beautiful Cadaqués. That’s the paella pan shop there on the left, just up from the church.

The new customer focussed Ryanair didn’t object to my bringing this back into Ireland despite it being way over the luggage size. I also managed to sneak in some beautiful chorizo sausage.

I thought we should christen the paella pan (Spain is a Christian country after all) with a Seafood Paella. Here’s the ingredients (and the pan).

The light might not be so good in my kitchen but I was reminded of Cadaqués.

The light might not be so good in my kitchen but I was reminded of Cadaqués.

Ingredients – for 4 to 6 people

  • 200 grammes of Spanish paella rice
  • 3 to 4 squid, depending on size
  • 8 to 10 monkfish cheeks or a monkfish tail cut into big chunks
  • 6 to 8 Gambas
  • 12 big mussels
  • half a kilo of Carpet Shell clams
  • Half a litre of fish stock
  • Half a ring of chorizo
  • 6 to 8 shallots (or one big Spanish onion.
  • A large teaspoon of hot paprika
  • A generous pinch or two of saffron
  • A big handful of parsley
  • A lemon
  • A small amount of olive oil

Side note on ingredients: Given where the pan came from, be as creative as you like in substituting the ingredients. Purists may be shocked but, it really can be a matter of being artistic and using what’s available and cheap.

First, get the clams into some salted water so they think they are back in the sea. They will start to open and close, releasing any sand trapped in their shells.

Poor chaps. They think they are back in the sea. If only they knew...

Poor chaps. They think they are back in the sea. If only they knew…

Next, chop up the chorizo into small bite size chunks.

All the way from Spain to my kitchen. Sorry about the food miles....

All the way from Spain to my kitchen. Sorry about the food miles….

Heat the pan and add some olive oil. Just enough to start the chorizo. It will release lots of highly flavoured, tasty oil too.

Look at the colour in that. Dali would have painted it, if he had the chance.

Look at the colour in that. Dali would have painted it, if he had the chance.

While the chorizo is cooking, chop the shallots.

Traditionalists will demand a Spanish onion. Who cares!

Traditionalists will demand a Spanish onion. Who cares!

Add the saffron to the stock and warm it. This will help with the cooking and also release more flavour and that lovely colour. Wash and prepare the squid. You can see how here.

This is the less messy end of preparing a squid or three.

This is the less messy end of preparing a squid or three.

When the chorizo has released lots of oil, turn down the heat and add the shallots.

Looking very tasty at this stage. These are only the first two layers of flavour.

Looking very tasty at this stage. Like oil on canvas, these are only the first two layers of flavour.

When the shallots are softened, add the rice and stir to coat.

Any Spanish amongst you must be feeling homesick at this stage.

Any Spanish amongst you must be feeling homesick at this stage.

Next, start to add the stock, stirring as you go.

Things are really stating to happen on the flavour front now.

Things are really stating to happen on the flavour front now.

Let this cook , being sure it does not dry out but resisting the urge to scrape the rice off the bottom of the pan. We want to get a nice crust on the base of the paella. This is known as the socarrat and is key in any good paella. Add water as needed. You might need up to a half litre.

Add the paprika and stir in, being careful to not mess up the socarrat.

Add the paprika and stir in, being careful to not mess up the socarrat.

Taste the rice as you cook. Sooner or later it will look like in the photo below.

Ready to add the seafood. Your diners will be getting pretty restless if they are in the room.

Ready to add the seafood. Your diners will be getting pretty restless if they are in the room.

First in goes the squid.

Give it about two minutes before adding the clams.

Give it about two minutes before adding the clams.

The clams will release some liquid and sea flavour into the dish.

A bit of clam action. I missed the shot of them all falling but caught one straggler.

A bit of clam action. I missed the shot of them all falling but caught one straggler.

Mix these in and then strategically place the mussels, mouth end up. Press the monkfish pieces into the rice and then decorate with the gambas.

Nearly done at this stage. The paella is really coming together.

Nearly done at this stage. The paella is really coming together.

Cover the entire dish with aluminium foil and let the steam cook the fish and gambas. This should take no more than 5 minutes. Remove the foil. decorate with the handful of parsley and slices of lemon.

It's no wonder Dali's paintings were so colourful. This is inspirational food.

It’s no wonder Dali’s paintings were so colourful. This is inspirational food.

Serve your diners with this beautiful treat.  It is really delicious and it was well worth my while making the journey to Spain to get the authentic pan.

I might retire to Cadaqez myself if they serve this stuff regularly.

I might retire to Cadaqés myself if they serve this stuff regularly.

The seafood paella really is creative artistry on a plate. Get on a plane, buy your paella pan and come home to a surreal dining experience. “Disfrute de su comida” as they say in Cadaqés.

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  • That really does look wonderful. I love paella. Next time you should buy yourself one of those portable gas rings so that, like a true Spanish male, you can cook the paella a la fuera. It always tickles me that in Spain, men cook paella. When women do it it’s just a rice dish.

    • Just like us Irish with our barbecues Linda. The cremated remains of a cow is man food while the perfectly cooked steak (female intervention) is only dinner.
      It’s a man thing…

  • That looks delicious 🙂

  • I had paella for the first time ever at the Christmas Market in Galway last month. What a mushy pasty disappointment it was. Yours on the other hand looks absolutely delicious.

    • It’s a lack of authenticity that is doing that, for sure. I strive for originality and excellence. At least, I strive for the appearance of that.

  • Que aproveche, mi amigo. I love paella so long as it contains no mussels. Mussels do not like me, and will not remain with me, if you know what I mean. But paella without mussels is a sad, sad thing…

    • You can go with a range of clams instead Kate. OR perhaps chicken and rabbit. IT really is open to pretty well anything. I don’t envy you your mussel trouble.

  • Yes! I have a paellera for paella valenciana! Who can resist!?!

    • Glad to have you in the gang Rina. Perhaps we could call ourselves the Paelladors?

  • I love the paella my friend makes when I visit him in Spain . Yours looks fantastic .

    • Hi Girlinde,
      Thanks for the kind words. Now you know that it can be done anywhere (as long as you have the authentic pan and ingredients…)

  • Great post. If I wasn’t snowed in I would go immediately to the market and prepare this tonight. Oh well, maybe tomorrow.

    • I hope you are not too overrun with blizzard conditions. I take it you are in the US? Thanks for the kind words.
      Best,
      Conor

      • Yes but I wish I was in Cadaques right now.

  • I bought my paella pan sized so that it will fit my Weber gas grill. It works great and makes for a fun cocktail hour for guests while I cook. …I’m afraid that my chorizo has more food miles than yours…

    • Let’s not get into the food miles. It’s a bit embarrassing in this case. Both the pan and the sausage flown around Europe!

  • My mouth is watering. Looks amazing!

    • Thanks Debbie. Will you get this stuff going in the Mountain Kitchen?
      Best,
      C

  • One thing I look forward to when we retire back to the UK is to be able to pop over to the channel like that. 🙂 Lovely dish.

    • Hi Virginia,
      I suspect you are thinking of escaping the snow at this stage.
      Hope it’s not too awful for you.
      Best,
      Conor

      • It’s not too bad. We’ll get about a foot or so. Maybe less if we are lucky. And they have been clearing the roads today. That’s the main thing!

      • I think snow is very pretty to look at. Clearing it? Not so much. It’s the bitter cold more than anything we’re looking to escape. Goes right to the bones!

  • Beautiful! I love how you cook. It’s meals like this that brought me to starting my blog in the first place. So did you get a stainless steel one? My issue with paella pans is that I don’t know how to treat them right. My first one was stolen (along with a fine bottle of whisky and my wok–all my fault for putting the good stuff all in one box) but in buying a second one I wanted to be authentic and it looks like the steel (non-stainless) is the way to go, but I didn’t do so well with my steel japanese knife.

    • Amanda, you are too kind. I remember your trauma with the theft. They will get no good from it. The best ones are steel, non stainless. They, like woks, improve with repeated cooking, cleaning in clean water and seasoning with oil. My wok is over 20 years old and cooks as well today as the day I bought it, better in fact. Small money and a good investment in authenticity.

  • Outstanding paella, Conor, very nice indeed. Better than what you’d get in most restaurants in Spain. I’d love a plate of this, or two. I believe it is quite authentic to throw into paella what you have on hand. That chorizo looks great. The issue of using paprika in paella seems to divide Spain. Nice pan, too. I’m trying to imagine you with a Dali mustache 😉

    • The origins of paella would imply that anything goes on the ingredients end of things. The paprika thing is interesting. I like to have it in. But then again, I’m not Spanish and I don’t have a curly moustache!

  • Gambas? I want some gambas. I don’t know what they are but I want some. Did you get a crusty bottom? I read somewhere paella should have a crusty bottom.

    • Gambas – big juicy prawns. Yes, I achieved a crusty bottom that day. The trick is to get it crusty without burning it. (If Kenneth Williams said that, it would sound rude).

  • Wowza. Gorgeous yet again! I am going to pass this along to my mum because she has a paella pan.

    • Visit your Mum. Steal the pan. Cook the dish. Invite your Mum over. Feed her. Apologise and return the pan. She will forgive you.

      • I sent it to her, she may make it for the Super Bowl.

  • Ok, I’m converted. I had a bad experience with a couple of paellas in Madrid that felt like the sea was slapping me across the face and calling me a sissy. And I LIKE seafood. But all the talk of the chorizo oil has me salivating. This is unfortunate, because I only finished my dinner 17 minutes ago. Thanks Conor.

    • Apologies Tara. Read the posts in the morning. That way, we can stay friends.

  • Just about my all time favorite meal!

    • Thanks John. It was very tasty indeed. Those Spanish peasants have a quality of life we must envy.

  • I mean, that so obviously looks crazy good. If only it were frugal! I could probably come up with something interesting though… I’ll have to get my thinking cap on.

  • Super paella!

  • Peagreen with envy! We are supposed to be the seafood country but yours looks better than mine . . . have never seen gambas quite like those . . . and the colour of that chorizo is to die for!! Must put my paella pan in the luggage, use more food miles than anyone else and come to the Emerald Isle both for your sea critters and a lesson on a perfect paella 🙂 !

  • Oh, yes, that’s a fine looking paella! But now you’ve got me thinking of all the trips I can take just to save money on the cookware…

  • Oh my, you just crack me up! Our time differences has made me a bit late to reply, what with my real job and all. You just up and flew to Spain for the pan, snuck in the chorizo, and now the rest of us are green with envy. Well done, once again, Conor!

  • Holy shit Conor, you are a man who truly knows how to paella. Very nice my friend. Put me down for a seat next time that pan comes out 🙏

  • Excellent! The aromas lifted from the computer screen right into my nose! Lovely dish Conor!

    • Thanks Barb. Sorry for tempting you with seafood again!

      • I love to order paella when we go out to a place that has it so I do not have to subject my husband to the smells of seafood! 🙂 Looks like a really amazing recipe…Love chorizo too!

  • Gosh this bought back memories. Paella is one of my favourite dishes and you are so right in saying change the ingredients. We spent long periods in Spain and my mother over the years changed the original recipe to something you wouldn’t recognize, but its just how we all love it.

    • It’s the only way. Otherwise life would be pretty tedious.

  • That’s it, I’m off to Spain…..

    • I’d be tempted to go with you Sheila. It’s too cold here by half.

  • You’ve outdone yourself, here, and I have to admit to a small case of pan-envy! 🙂

    • Thanks Frugal. I went the distance to get it.

  • I love paella, the ultimate one pan dish. Love that you went to Spain for your pan!

    • Hi Anna,
      It’s the only place to go!
      Best,
      Conor

  • It looks really good. 🙂

    • Thanks Linda. Not for a quick supper but very tasty.

  • A colorful dish that Dali would have loved painting.

    • Thanks Karen. I had great fun ‘creating’ it.

  • Love paella! It’s a firm favourite for staff food in the restaurant as it uses up leftovers and everyone goes mad for it!

    • Like so many ‘peasant’ dishes, it does as you suggest. Hugely popular around here too.

  • Hi Conor,( sorry for excess amount of likes! 🙂 ) Im trying to catch up with blogs that I follow after months of being inactive. One sentence : I’d buy your book! Adore all the recipes

    • Thank you Nargess,
      Good to see you back on the blog too. I have a particular love for risotto and you seem to have nailed it with that pea and chorizo.
      Best,
      C

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