Last weekend we had our “farewell-but-we-are-coming-back-dinner” for some of our friends; 5 Puerto Ricans, a Swede and a French. It was an experiment since it was the first time we invited some Puerto Ricans for a sit-down dinner – usually people here, just like in the US, have very informal gatherings with buffet-style dinners. While we lived in Europe I would never have thought that a sit-down dinner was very formal but it is just easier to sit around a table and eat with fork and knife… The group was not just a mix of different nationalities, but also of different people who didn’t know each other which is always interesting. I always enjoy seeing how a group will interact and whether it will work mixing friends.
I would say that the dinner was a success; even phone numbers were exchanged! It was very enjoyable to actually sit around a table and talk, the conversation flows in a different way when all the guests sit together. O had made sangria and paella with shrimp, chicken and chorizo, and I was responsible for the dessert – a cheesecake with a ginger snap (pepparkaks) base. Both the cheesecake and the paella were very popular, and we even got a request for a doggy bag of paella to bring home to my Spanish teacher’s father (who was very curious about the dish – I hope he liked it!).
The recipe below is very basic since O doesn’t really use a recipe and just improvises with the ingredients. So, do the same – add a little lemon, skip the chicken or the chorizo (the paella on the photos didn’t have chorizo) etc. Or if you don’t feel confident enough, use this recipe in Swedish or maybe this in English.
N.B. The paella photos are from a previous paella dinner just before Christmas when O cooked outside on a barbeque for all his colleagues!
rice (approximately 100 grams per person)
shrimp and / or various seafood (mussels, calamari etc)
fish broth (O makes his own) – twice the amount of rice
1-2 tomatoes – grated on a cheese grater to a pulp
2-3 cloves garlic (depending on size and taste)
1-1½ teaspoon paprika
saffron (or it can be already added to the broth)
a handful of peas or green beans
It is not necessary to use a traditional paella pan, just use a big, deep and wide frying pan, that’s what we did on Saturday (the paellera was left back in Brussels).
Pour a generous amount of olive oil in the pan (3/4 of the bottom should be covered), once heated add a teaspoon of paprika and let it become golden but not burnt by stirring. Fry the shrimp slightly and remove. Add the chicken and chorizo, cook well and remove.
Add the tomato and fry while stirring. Peas or green beans go in next, keep stirring and then add the rice. Fry the rice slightly before adding the broth and the garlic mixture (garlic, saffron and maybe some more paprika). Spread the rice and the meat / fish evenly and let it boil on high heat for 10 minutes. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remember, the rice should not be fully cooked (almost al dente like pasta)!
Turn off the heat and let the rice finish cooking by covering the pan with a lid / aluminium foil for approximately 6 minutes. Serve the paella with some fresh parsley and maybe some slices of lemon, other decorations could be boiled eggs cut in halves or strips of red pepper.
Tip: O says that the secret is to cook the rice spread in a thin layer. If the rice is getting too dry while cooking at low heat, spread some drops of water with your finger tips and then cover the pan with aluminium foil. Repeat the process until the rice is almost cooked.
Some people like the paella to be slightly burnt… In Spain a paella is considered well made when the rice at the bottom is a bit “toasted”!
(recipe written with the instructions from O)