I have picked up Spanish cooking while living in Andalusia. The food is simple but good, though after a while it got a little boring and we were happy to move on. I guess that once you're exposed to French and Singaporean cuisines, you can no longer accept less. Anyway, most of the Spanish dishes are easy to make and leave enough room for further improvement which suits me just fine.
Last night, I made the famous Spanish dish from Valencia - Seafood Paella. Spending my day bringing the kids to school (3 different ones) and back, cooking 3 meals, going through the eldest's schoolwork etc means not wanting to spend hours making a meal like I used to. I try to make just one dish and it has to be simple but good and balanced.
300g italian arborio rice or valenciana paella rice
6 chicken drumsticks marinated with ground turmeric, paprika, salt, pepper
4 chorizo, chipolata or merguez sausages
8 big tiger prawns
2 calamari/squid sliced
a few mussles, clams and/or scampi
lots of olive oil
1l of chicken or seafood stock with some Jerez/Sherry added
1 bay leaf
1 big (red) onion sliced finely
5 cloves garlic ditto
1 red pepper roughly sliced
8 cocktail plum tomatoes halved
1 cup of sweet peas
a few safran threads
I have a paellera (the pan with 2 handles for making paella) but it's not non-stick, has no cover and has not the right fire to go with (I'm on electric). So I opted for a big non-stick frying pan that looks like a paellera instead.
The most important thing for me in making paella is to give flavour to the rice. So this means pouring a generous amount of olive oil in the pan and basically cooking the prawns, squid, chicken, shellfish (except the clams and mussles) and sausages in it and then removing them and setting them aside after that. Do not overcook, of course.
Cook the clams/mussles separately in a pot with a bit of olive oil, garlic and Jerez. When the clams have opened up, remove them from the pot and side aside. Strain the juice and add it to the stock. Put in the strands of Safran.
Next, add more olive oil if necessary to the fragrant oil in the pan and brown the onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes. Spread them out evenly over the pan, add in the peas and the rice (usually we do not stir the rice during the cooking when making a paella so spread it out evenly from the start and make sure the grains are nicely coated in the oil). Followed by the stock and the bay leaf. Then place the chicken, prawns, squid, shellfish, sausages etc on top of the rice as tastefully as you can manage. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and cook till the stock is fully absorbed by the rice (about 15-20 minutes).
Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.