This isn’t a simple, carefree kind of paella; we’re talking a bit of time, commitment and enthusiastic energy here. But let me tell you a little secret, I had a little helper with me on this trip, Sarah, who actually helped me prepared all the veggies and then grill them, one by one. When you make this, get yourself a little (or big) helper; it’s always nicer to work in a group and the result is quite something.
50ml olive oil
1 onion, finely diced (290g net)
2 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp smoky paprika
4 cloves garlic, sliced
250ml dry sherry
500g paella rice
1.5 litres chicken stock, warmed
1 tsp saffron threads
3 long strips of shaved orange skin
400g French beans, blanched for 4 minutes, refreshed and dried (380g net)
2 small courgettes, sliced on an angle 1cm thick (230g net)
2 green peppers, topped and tailed and cut into 1cm thick strips (190g net)
200g cherry tomatoes
2 lemons, quartered (310g net)
5 spring onions, ends removed, cut into 6cm lengths and quartered lengthways (70g net)
1kg whole prawns, shell on
40g parsley, roughly chopped
2 green chillies, roughly chopped
90ml olive oil
- Start by making the parsley oil. Place all the ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor or pestle and mortar, add a pinch of salt and blitz until almost smooth but maintaining some texture. Set aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to a large paella or sauté pan and place on a medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft. Stir through the spices and garlic and cook for another minute. Pour over the sherry and let it bubble away for 3 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously, until warm and glossy. Add the chicken stock, saffron, orange strips and ¾ teaspoon of salt, and gently stir so the rice is even in the pan. Leave to simmer very gently for 20 minutes until the rice is cooked through but still retains a bite and the stock is absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and leave somewhere warm.
- While the rice is bubbling away, place a ridged griddle pan on high heat and ventilate the kitchen. In a large bowl toss the beans with ½ a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the beans to the pan and grill for 1 minute, until starting to blister and darken. Remove and place in a bowl. Mix the courgettes in the same bowl with ½ a tablespoon of oil and ¼ teaspoon of salt, grill for 3 to 4 minutes and put in the bowl with the beans. Repeat in the same way for the peppers. Add ½ tablespoon of oil and a pinch of salt to the tomatoes and grill for 2 minutes until they are just starting to char and split and remove to the bowl. The spring onions just need a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon of oil and 30 seconds on the grill. The lemons you can just put straight on the heat as they will caramelise with their own juices with 30 seconds on each side. Remove and place in the same bowl as the other vegetables.
- Lastly mix the whole prawns with ¼ teaspoon of salt and ½ a tablespoon of olive oil and grill for one minute on each side. Remove immediately.
- Spoon two thirds of the rice onto a platter. Sprinkle over a selection of vegetables, followed by more rice, gradually building the layers outwards and upwards. Scatter the prawns on top of the vegetables, lightly pushing some of them into the rice. Finally add the lemon wedges and drizzle over the parsley oil. Serve at once.