This time of the year has brought back lovely memories from last year, when I toured Spain with my BFFs (Best Female Friends!) It was the “ME” time for each of us and also our “US” time. And we connected with one another on a very special level all over again to celebrate 25 years of our friendship.
Each moment we spent together is still fresh in each of our memories and that week and half will remain close to our hearts forever. Amongst all those ‘out of the box’ activities that we treated ourselves to, some of them are very dear to my heart.
The lazy bicycle tour through the quaint cobbled lanes of Barcelona admiring the most amazing architectural wonders of Gaudi, the relaxing evening at a tiny café serving unbelievably drool worthy tapas and the most refreshing Sangria and an enjoyable afternoon spent at the Spanish Cuisine class with a melange of co-students from across the world.
My first time cooking with quail eggs, clams, mussels, octopus, squids et al !! Back home, my non-vegetarian culinary skills as well as appetite had never gone beyond chicken and prawns, and this experience cooking and tasting was absolutely fascinating…
So, with Paella de Marisco or the authentic seafood Paella my taste buds had their first tryst with mussels n squids and yes!!…. after some initial inhibition, even the octopus!
Back home however, friends and family are surely not so adventurous and hence, when some subtle and many not so subtle mandates for serving a Spanish meal were directed at me, I had to quickly think of a way to make a slightly conservative version of the delightful Paella de Marisco.
So out went the clams and octopus and the likes, and chicken took its place. Fish broth out, chicken stock in. I also knocked out the artichokes and asparagus and substituted our very own Indian veggies. Traditional Paella also uses chorizo sausages, I completely did away with them.
And voila… I had customised the ingredients for the Indian palate..
For the Chicken and Veggies Paella for 6-8 people, we need..
500gm boneless chicken chunks
400g of assorted veggies (I used broccoli, zucchini, babycorn, green, red and yellow peppers)
2 tomatoes grated
1 onion diced
6 tablespoons Olive oil
8-10 threads of saffron
5 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of Risotto Rice or any Non fragrant long grain rice
½ cup dry white wine
Salt and paprika to taste
To start with, shallow fry chicken chunks in 2 tablespoons oil till brown and par cooked and keep aside.
Take 4 tablespoons of hot water and soak the saffron threads.
In a wide flat pan or vessel, heat rest of the oil, add onion, garlic, paprika, salt and tomatoes. Stir fry till the mixture gets dry. Add the rice and stir fry for few minutes. Stir in heated Chicken stock and the wine along with the saffron water and threads. Add the chicken and veggies at this juncture and simmer uncovered on low flame, till the rice is cooked al dente. The wine evaporates in the boiling process, leaving the essence which is so very characteristic to Paella.
If you are serving Paella to children and don’t want to use the wine, it can be substituted with the juice of half a lemon.
If you want a veggie version, substitute the chicken with white beans and French beans; and the chicken stock with veggie stock.
Having served Paella and more, to lots of family and friends…..even firangi friends over the last one year; I can safely say I have got accustomed to having my Spanish culinary skills complimented. I am so glad that Paella can be customised to suit ones palate in amazingly different ways and yet its virtue retained.
Go try out your very own version of Paella, I am sure it will be as pleasurable an endeavour for you as it has been for me.
Adios Amigos! La Vida Buena!