Saturday 20 January 2018

Spicy Chicken and Sweet Red Pepper Paella


Anne Kennedy

You'll need a large wide pan -- about 13-inch in diameter -- to make a proper paella. The rice needs to absorb the stock on its own terms, not bathe in it. A vivid heady saffron is essential too, otherwise, you will just have chicken and rice. The finest saffron comes from Iran, but the Spanish saffron is excellent too.

Cooking the chicken separately means you don't have to worry about whether it is cooked at the same time as the rice. Serves six.

What you need

12 chicken thighs or 6 chicken breasts on the bone

Salt and black pepper

3 tbsps olive oil

2 medium onions, peeled and finely sliced

200g spicy chorizo, sliced

2 long sweet red peppers, seeded and cut in half down the middle

4 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 pinches saffron threads

1.4 litres hot chicken stock

400g paella rice

100ml dry white wine

1 tsp smoked paprika

60g frozen peas (optional)

Flat-leaf parsley, chopped


Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat half the olive oil in the pan and fry the chicken until golden on both sides. Place the chicken on a baking dish and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you pierce it with a knife.

While the chicken is cooking, put the rest of the olive oil in the pan and cook the onions over a gentle heat until they are softened and lightly coloured.

Add the chorizo, turn the heat up to medium and cook until the chorizo is golden. If there is too much oil in the pan, drain some off.

Cut the sweet red peppers into chunks and add to the pan with the tomatoes and garlic and cook until they are softened and the garlic is fragrant, but not coloured. While they are cooking, add the saffron to the hot stock and allow to infuse. It should turn the stock yellow if the saffron is authentic.

Add the rice to the pan, stirring it so it can soak up the juices. Then, add the white wine to the rice, turn the heat up and cook for a minute or two. Add the hot stock and saffron and paprika and cook over a medium heat until the rice is cooked.

Don't stir the rice. If it starts to bubble vigorously, then turn the heat down. It will take between 20-25 minutes for the rice to cook. If you find the rice drying out, add a little boiling water.

Add the frozen peas (if using) in the last few minutes of cooking. When the rice is tender, turn the heat off and cover the pan tightly with tinfoil and leave for 10 minutes -- covering the rice helps to separate the grains.

Remove the tinfoil, place the chicken on top, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Tips: If you can't find paella rice, you can use arborio instead. You can cook the chicken with its skin on or off.

If you don't use the spicy chorizo, add a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes when you are frying the onions.

Many Asian shops stock saffron, but you need to check that it is not fake saffron, also called 'bastard' saffron. Real saffron has a heady fragrant smell which is unmistakable and it dyes the rice a sunflower yellow. If you use fake saffron, you will wonder what this dish is all about.

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