Cooking with Saffron: Seafood Paella for 4 Hungry People

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Photo by Povy Kendal Atchison

Paella can made with chicken or rabbit, seafood, a mixture of both, or with a variety of vegetables only. However you make it, the basic method and the saffron ratio is the same. If you are served bright yellow paella that stains your fingers bright yellow, food coloring is the culprit.

• 1 pound mussels
• 1/4 pound small prawns
• 2 small squid or 1/2 pound squid rings
• 1/2 pound baby clams
• 8 langoustines or large prawns
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1/2 red pepper, cut into strips
• 3 cloves garlic 
• 3 peeled, chopped tomatoes
• 1 tablespoon paprika
• 4 cups rice
• 8 to 12 cups Fish Stock (see recipe on the next page)
• 12 saffron threads

1. Clean mussels and boil in a pan until they open. Strain, remove one half of the shell, set aside and reserve the water for Fish Stock. Peel prawns and set the leftovers (heads, tails and skins) aside for Fish Stock, too.

2. Heat olive oil in a paella pan or large skillet and lightly fry squid, langoustines and peeled prawns. Remove from pan and set aside.

3. Sauté onion, red pepper, garlic, tomatoes and paprika for 7 or 8 minutes.

4. Add rice, season, cook for a minute or two, stirring all the time. Add stock (start with 8 cups) and the saffron.

5. Bring to a boil, add squid and clams and do not stir again. Cook over a high flame for 10 minutes before adding the prawns, langoustines and mussels. (CONT.)

6. Keep cooking over a fierce heat until nearly all the stock is absorbed. You may need to add more stock and adjust for salt.

7. When rice is almost done, remove from heat and cover with newspaper or a damp cloth for 5 minutes. The rice will continue to cook so make sure it’s still ever-so-slightly soupy.

Note: You can dissolve a fish stock cube in 3 cups of boiling water in lieu of making the Fish Stock. Even if you don’t have fresh mussels or a fish head, use the prawn leftovers and vegetables to add natural flavor. 

Fish Stock

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• Prawn head, tails and skins (from the paella prawns)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 leek, chopped
• 1 fish head
• Mussel water (from paella step 1)

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan, the same one you will use for the stock.

2. Sauté prawn leftovers in the oil for a few minutes.

3. Add onion and leek and continue to fry. When they start to brown, toss in the fish head. Then add mussel water and fill the rest of the way with water.

4.  Bring to a boil, cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes.

Theresa O’Shea is a British freelance journalist who lives in the south of Spain and adores Spanish cooking.

Click here for the main article, Grow, Cook and Heal with Saffron.

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