Monday, 2 September 2013

Seafood Paella

My boyfriend Michele and I recently got back from a holiday travelling around southern Spain. The original plan was just to visit my parents who have a house near Malaga, however, since there were no direct flights from Pisa airport, we decided to stop off in Valencia on the way to sample the famous Paella Valenciana. Being allergic to seafood, sadly I have always foregone the family ritual of gorging on paella whilst on holiday so I was beside myself with excitement when I read that the Valencian paella is in fact seafood free! There are a few variations on the recipe but the classic main ingredients are chicken, rabbit and beans - either butter beans, great northern beans (similar to cannellini) or runner beans. Other variations include the addition of snails, favored in the past by poorer families, duck and artichokes, which are often used in winter to replace the runner beans. 

After doing some extensive research on where to eat our first authentic Valencian paella, we opted for a little restaurant in the old town called Bodegó de la Sarieta. I ordered the traditional Valencian paella which came with chicken and rabbit on the bone and butter and runner beans, whilst Michele ordered a classic seafood paella. I have to say, I was very impressed with all aspects of the dish; the fact that we were warned in advance that the paella was cooked from scratch so there was a half an hour wait, the moistness of the rabbit which is so easy to overcook, the great depth of flavour and the salty 'crust' on the bottom of the pan, called the socarrat, which indicates a top notch, smokey flavoured paella.

Michele and the paellas!

When I arrived in Malaga some days later I was telling my Spanish neighbour, Clotty, about my fantastic dining experience in Valencia and she offered to show me how she made her legendary seafood paella, and the secret to getting that perfect socarrat on the bottom. She was entertaining for a family birthday so the quantities were a little more than I would ever normally need but here is the scaled-down recipe!


Clotty's Seafood Paella

Before starting Clotty advises me that the key to a good paella is to resist the temptation to stir! She explains that unlike a risotto, the idea isn't to make a creamy stock with the rice but rather to allow the stock to be absorbed. She also suggests to keep turning the pan around every so often to ensure that the rice is cooked evenly and there are no burnt bits.

Serves 6
5 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large spanish onions, finely chopped
2 peppers, (Clotty used one red and one green) chopped into 1cm pieces
2 tsp pimentón picante
400g fresh squid, dried with kitchen paper, seasoned and cut into 3cm pieces
200g large peeled prawns (uncooked)
400g small clams, washed
600g short-grain paella rice, such as Calasparra
1 generous pinch of saffron strands
1.5 litres fish stock (Clotty made hers from scratch a couple of days before)
250g mussels, cleaned
6 cooked langoustines


Place a medium sized, well oiled, paella pan over a large burner (if cooking at home, use 2 regular burners) on a medium heat. Add the oil and garlic, shortly followed by the onion and fry until soft. Next add the peppers and pimentón, and fry for about another 5 minutes until the peppers start to go soft. Add the squid and stir-fry about 3 minutes or until it turns white.

Scatter the clams and prawns into the pan and add the rice and saffron. Give everything a good stir then add the stock and some salt (depending on the saltiness of the stock). Bring the paella to the boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, leave on a strong simmer for around 5 minutes without stirring. Remember to turn the pan every few minutes to make sure it cooks evenly. Then lower the gas to medium, place the mussels and langoustines over the rice, pushing them down slightly. Cook for another 15 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed, still without stirring.

Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a clean tea towel then leave to rest for a few minutes before serving. Buen Provecho!

Clotty and her pan!

Legendary paella


  1. WOW! Look at the size of that pan! It's enormous! I have never been to Spain, and I have never had Paella. I am allergic to shell fish and sea food, so it's not something I have ever been able to try. It does look good though.

  2. That is a real big pan! I think the reason why the pan is that wide is so that the rice can be easily spread out to avoid over stirring. It’s too bad that you were allergic to seafood, but at least you can try a Paella dish that will not leave you worrying for your health afterwards. Anyway, I hope to read more posts from you!

    Crystal Carson @