Recipe: Stress-free paella

COMFORT FOOD: This paella is a great way to use up bits and piece from the Fridge.
COMFORT FOOD: This paella is a great way to use up bits and piece from the Fridge.

Perfectly suited to a wintry evening, Ruth Pretty cooks up a stress-free paella.

Today's method of cooking paella is a Clayton's version of the classic Spanish rice dish. I enjoyed it originally in Seville, cooked by a friend who explained that it was a family dish and viewed as a way of using up bits and pieces from the fridge. So feel free to add chopped bacon, ham or pumpkin, almond slivers, sliced leeks or frozen peas. Mussels, prawns or fish can also be added in the last 15 minutes of cooking. Leftovers will reheat well the next day.


Serves 6

Ideally, make this dish with Spanish paella rice. You should find it in the speciality section of supermarkets or in gourmet food stores. But don't get too hung up on rice variety - this is a homely dish and you can use a supermarket version of risotto rice, or simply a medium or long grain rice. Do not wash the rice first.

Ingredients 30ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil

180g (1) onion, finely diced

1 tsp finely chopped garlic

560g (13/4 cups + 2 Tbsp) rice

1.25 litres (5 cups) boiling vegetable stock, or water

175g (1 cup) canned chickpeas, drained (or soak dried chickpeas overnight and cook till al dente)

70g ( 1/2 cup) currants

1/4 cup roughly chopped dill

1/4 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley leaves

240g (1 1/2) red pepper, cut into 2cm dice

3 Tbsp capers, rinsed and roughly chopped

1 Tbsp roughly chopped Preserved Lemon Peel, or 1 tsp coarsely grated lemon zest

85g (3 large) leaves rainbow chard, or silverbeet, with stalk, thinly sliced

1/4 tsp lightly toasted and ground saffron

3 tsp flaky sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 bulb Roasted Garlic

Preheat oven to 180'C.

Put a frypan onto a medium heat, pour in oil and heat. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes or until onion is translucent but not browned. Add garlic and cook until softened.

Add rice, stock or water, chickpeas, currants, dill, parsley, red pepper, capers, Preserved Lemon Peel or lemon zest, rainbow chard or silverbeet, saffron, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Pour into an ovenproof ceramic dish with 2.5 litre volume. (I always use a 28cm diameter terracotta Spanish cazuela.) Using the back of a spoon, spread out rice to an even depth. Place the garlic bulb upright in the centre of the dish, pushing it into the liquids.

Place into preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil and cook for a further 15 minutes or until rice is cooked and fluffy.

Remove from oven and rest paella, covered, at room temperature for 5-10 minutes.

Serve hot. Squeeze pulp from Roasted Garlic onto each serve.


Makes 20g

A quick method of making preserved lemon peel.

Ingredients 4 lemons

30ml (2 Tbsp) lemon juice

1/4 cup table salt

50g (1/4 cup) sugar

3 fresh bay leaves, thinly sliced

1 red chilli, deseeded and coarsely chopped

45ml (3 Tbsp) olive oil

Peel lemons using a vegetable peeler, being careful not to include any white pith. Place peel into a bowl. Add lemon juice, salt, sugar, bay leaves and chilli. Stir to combine.

Cover with plastic wrap and leave in refrigerator for 2 hours.

Tip mixture into a sieve and run under cold water to rinse off salt. Transfer peel and aromatics to a clean tea towel and dry thoroughly.

Place into a sterilised jar and pour in olive oil. Stir until peel is covered in oil.

Cover jar and store in refrigerator for a month.


Ingredients 3-4 bulbs of garlic

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 tsp flaky salt

1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

extra olive for storing roasted garlic

Preheat oven to 180'C.

Trim top quarter off whole garlic bulbs to expose cloves. To avoid bitterness, place in a small saucepan of water and set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes. Drain. Discard loose skin and puncture sides and top with a fork.

Place into a small ceramic dish and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper.

Place in oven and roast for 40 minutes or until cloves start popping out of skins.

To store roasted bulbs, or squeezed-out pulp, place in a container, submerge garlic in olive oil and cover container with lid.

Leave in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

The Dominion Post