Today Dooney’s Kitchen is journeying to Spain, bringing you one of their most famous exports, Paella. I read Isio Wanogho’s post, “Too White for your own good” on Bella Naija, and I found myself chuckling through the entire piece and the comments too. Why? I get told the exact same thing, to the point I have lost count of the times I have been told, you better marry a white man, because they are the only ones that will understand you. All this your persnickety (yes I used that word) attitude to many things, and your liberal view of the world, Nigerian men don’t have the time or patience for that. Most weren’t raised that way. Le Sigh. When I moved to the UK, two people said, okay good, you are moving to live among your people. We always knew you didn’t belong here. WHAT!!!!! For someone who was born and raised in Nigeria, albeit to a well-travelled and enlightened family, I really don’t know where the coconut ideology came from. Why am I bringing this up in a post about Seafood Paella, it is very apt because wine is involved in its cooking.
I was at a restaurant with friends and one of the rare times I drink alcohol, the waiter poured the wine and I looked at the glass, swirled it, dipped my nose into the bowl, took a sip, held it there for a few seconds before I swallowed. Oh dear, I was told I was forming “posh”, who does that. Errrrr, that is how you drink wine. Like with many food items, wine in particular, you have to use all your senses to truly appreciate the flavour. The 4S rule. Oh, you may say rule, really with food but with some food, the rules are there to enhance your experience of consuming it. The 4S rule – Seeing, Swirling, Smelling and Sipping. I have attached a link which explains everything.
It is just sad that we black people don’t think that refinement is something we do, so it should only be left to white people. I told you guys in my cocktail post, I went for a swanky work do in The City once and was the only black person there but I knew my wine by location. The Wine Connoiseur there, some very famous man in the industry was shocked. He said it rarely happens that someone gets it right on the first try, and continually nails the location. I know part of the shock on his face and the other people there was because of who I am, especially with my Nigerian accent and not some “posh British public school accent”. So people, a little exposure doesn’t hurt, it makes for interesting conversation with people from all works of life and no one will be able to intimidate you or put you down. I can converse with the Boli seller on the street like we grew up together and in the next breath converse with the guy from Eton at a business luncheon. My parents made sure of that.
So of course, when I was going to choose the wine to cook this Paella, I let my taste memories decide, plus my knowledge of wine and food pairings. I picked a Sauvignon Blanc because it goes beautifully with Seafood. An Australian white to be specific. Not mentioning the name. I’ve been told to stop doing product placements for free. Someone once told me of a colleague of hers who quit her job because her weight loss and healthy lifestyle blog got so popular. She gets paid by companies to mention their products on her blog because when she does, those products fly off the shelves. Dooney’s Kitchen will get there one day, that I know and pray. Kenwood for one owes be a big fat cheque for all the free marketing I have done for them. Looooool.
Lets get to cooking, Paella truly is a treat. Give your family a different rice eating experience. For members of #teamfitfam, replace rice with Bulgur Wheat or Quinoa.
You will need
Paella rice – this is what makes it paella
Seafood Medley – I used tiger prawns, muscles, clams, squid, smoked cod
Ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
Olive oil – or any other vegetable oil
Jalapeño – I used this for colour and for heat
A pinch of Saffron
Smoked Paprika – smoked dry pepper
1. Prep all your ingredients, especially the seafood and the hot peppers.
cut to the sizes that you wish
Give the Mussels and Clams a good rinse, because they harbour dirt in their hidden corners
rinse the Tiger Prawns. Remember to leave the shell on. This is where the flavour is
Here’s the seasoning cube I used. Okay Knorr, pay up for product placement. Loool
Paella pan, very important. This iconic shape is crucial to how the Paella cooks. The heat is distributed evenly and you don’t stir at all. Very, very important. The rice should cook in the fish broth undisturbed. If you don’t have a Paella pan, let me whisper in secret between you and me, use a flat frying pan. Running away now before the Spanish people have my head for food sacrilege. Looool
Paella Rice – it is a type of rice that has a lot of starch and it is quite sticky. The Italian version is Aborio rice.
All the prepping done, time to cook.
2. Heat up olive oil in the paella pan, and sauté the onions, garlic, ginger and hot peppers till they soften and release their aroma.
3. Add the seafood, with the exception of the mussels and shake the pan, redistributing the heat, and allow the seafood to release their natural juices.
as soon as the prawns turn pink, you know you are good to go. Add a couple of splashes of white wine and allow the seafood to absorb its flavour. Unless you don’t drink for religious reasons, you can still cook with wine. The alcohol will burn off, leaving just the flavour
4. Add the fish stock. An easy way to get fish stock is to pour hot water unto the fish stock cube and let it dissolve.
turn down the heat and let it simmer gently.
5. Add the smoked paprika. This is for colour as well as flavour. A true Paella has a distinctive smokey flavour to it.
6. Add the threads of Saffron. This is the most expensive spice in the world, it is like gold. Vanilla comes second. I bought quite a lot of it on my holiday to Marrakech. Compared to the prices sold here, it was a steal. Luckily, with Saffron, you only need a little of it. Its flavour is quite strong, so just a pinch or two. It is also what gives Paella its signature orange colour. See the orange?
7. Add the muscles, clams and Paella rice. Use a wooden spoon to gently spread the rice across and leave it. You don’t stir Paella at all. You leave it to cook in the pan till it gets soft and you serve.
As the rice starts to cook, as expected, it will absorb the fish stock
A the stock is absorbed, the rice will cook and take on the orangey colour.
Paella is sticky rice dish, so don’t expect it turn out like our Jollof rice for example. It is soft, squishy, clumpy but not yucky soggy, so watch it closely. You may need to top up with water as it cooks, but again, do not stir.
8. Leave it to cook till all the stock has been absorbed and the rice has cooked through. I took this picture a couple of minutes before it cooked through completely, and forgot to take a picture when I took it from the heat, so pardon the extra stock you can see peeking out.
Try out Paella this weekend and invite the flavours of Spain into your home.