P A E L L A  M A G N I F I C A

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus at least 30

minutes marinating and 30 minutes soaking

Cooking time: 55 minutes

Serves: 5-6

Season: Shellfish is best in the colder months —

November through to late January.

1 garlic clove

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 sprig thyme

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tblsp white wine vinegar

2 tblsp olive oil

0.6 kg chicken thighs, bone-in, with skin

60 g unsmoked streaky bacon or salt pork

175 g fresh prawns

175 g fresh sea scallops

1 chorizo ring, about 250 g in weight

1 small onion

Pinch saffron threads (0.4g)

1 tblsp capers

200 g chopped tomatoes in their juice

100 ml white wine

1 pint chicken stock, homemade or fresh store

bought

250 g Spanish paella or long grain rice

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

400 g jar artichoke hearts in olive oil, drained

4 tblsp fresh or frozen peas

60 g pimentos

10 mussels

10-15 littleneck or carpet-shell clams

25 ml Sambuca

15 g fresh parsley

Lemon for garnish

Begin marinating the chicken thighs.  Peel and crush the garlic with the salt into a paste.  Wash the thyme, remove the leaves and add them to the garlic-salt mixture.  Roughly chop, then combine with the coriander in a glass bowl that will hold the chicken comfortably.  Pour in the white wine vinegar and olive oil.  Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature — any longer and the chicken needs to be refrigerated.  This can be done (and in fact is all the better for it) the day before cooking.

Chop the streaky bacon or salt pork into 1 cm cubes.  In a 4-litre casserole, sauté the pork until the fat has rendered and pork bits have started to brown.  Transfer the crispy bits of pork with a slotted spoon to a small bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, quickly fry the prawns in the pork fat until pink; remove and set aside.  Do the same with the scallops, although the scallops should only be 'tinged' brown around the edges, one minute on each side should be enough.  Remove and set aside.  Try not to stack the scallops as the steam they give off will deglaze those 'tinged' brown bits you worked so hard to achieve.

Remove the papery skin from the chorizo if there is any and slice the chorizo.  Fry in the same pan and cook until the chorizo starts to release some of its fat, browning slightly around the edges.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the small bowl containing the pork bits.  There should be about 2 tblsp of fat in the pan.  If there is any more, spoon off and discard the surplus.  

Brown the chicken in the chorizo fat remaining in the pan.  Give yourself a good few minutes to do this properly.  You want the skin to have some colour on it.  Peel and finely chop the onions while the chicken is browning.  Sprinkle the onions and sauté for a few minutes before adding the saffron, capers and tomatoes over and around the chicken.  Return the pork bits and chorizo to the pan.  Pour in the wine and chicken stock.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the rice, along with the artichoke hearts, peas and pimentos.  Stir to incorporate all of the ingredients as best you can.  Cover, and simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes.

While the paella is cooking, steam the mussels and clams together in another pan with 60 ml of water until they open, about 4-5 minutes.  Discard any that don't open after 8 minutes.  Remove the mussels and clams from the pan, strain the cooking liquid and reserve.  Taste the mussel cooking liquid.  It should be pleasantly briny and taste of the sea.

After 30 minutes, remove the lid from the paella and check the level of liquid.  At this stage the rice should have swelled to fill the pan but there should be enough cooking liquid to keep it juicy.  Pour in the cooking liquid from the mussels and clams.  Be careful not to pour in any grit which may have fallen to the bottom of the bowl or measuring jug.  Tuck the scallops, prawns, mussels and clams over the top.  Sprinkle over the measure of Sambuca.  Cover again and gently heat through for an additional 10 minutes.  The paella at this stage can be kept warm for up to half an hour. 

Wash and chop the parsley and cut the lemon into wedges  Spoon the paella onto plates and serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkling of parsley.