It’s a hot but blissful day. You’re 20. And for the first time in your life you’re in a country where English isn’t the first language. You’re staying in a resort with your sister and some family. You spend your days in the pool, at the beach, discovering tapas for the first time ever and getting tipsy from your new favourite summer drink, sangria. You feel adventurous, and you’re loving the extra summer you’re getting when it’s winter at home. Your soundtrack of choice is California Waiting by Kings of Leon and you’ve just tasted the brightest orange juice you’ve ever seen. You’re in Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain. They serve garlic bread as bread smothered in garlic aioli and the week you are spending here feels like heaven to you.
In 2007, I went to Alcudia, Mallorca, just off the coast of Spain and fell in LOVE with paella. It was one of the first nights we were in Spain, and so, of course, we went to a Spanish restaurant to try some of the local fare. Aioli, patatas bravas, croquetas, albondigas en salsa – the options were endless! This stage in my life was when I first started experimenting and trying new foods, after years of being rather unadventurous. We’d just arrived from England, where I’d tasted my first English strawberries – something that up until that moment, I was convinced that I hated. So in the spirit of new discoveries, without much description of it, I took the recommendation to order paella, and I haven’t looked back. I think I ordered it four times that week, taking home the leftovers. And when arrived back in Australia, it was all I talked about – I even received a paella pan and bag of paella rice at my 21st birthday!
The only photo I could find of myself in Mallorca, 2007
If you haven’t tried paella, it’s a fabulous Mediterranean dish. The saffron-yellow rice with simple flavours of rosemary, parsley, capsicum and tomato can be complimented by any protein of your choice, from prawns, to chorizo, to chickpeas. It’s tasty, it’s filling, it makes a lot, and if you make your own stock, you don’t have to worry about MSG. (If you’d like to skip the nitrites, you don’t need to add the chorizo)
It’s a comfort food classic, and even though the rice is filling, it’s still a perfect meal to eat in summer with a side of salad (in my humble opinion).
Chicken & Chorizo Paella
500-700g chicken, diced (or 2-3 tins chickpeas)
2 chorizo sausages, sliced
2tb extra virgin olive oil
1 large red capsicum, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 litre of bone broth or homemade vegetable stock (you may need extra water)
2 cups arborio/short grain rice
400g tinned tomatoes
1 cup frozen green beans
Salt & Pepper
Half a cup of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Lemon wedges, to serve
Heat a wide based pan on a medium high heat until hot, and brown your chicken on a medium-high heat. Remove from the pan. Brown the chorizo and remove.
Heat your bone broth/stock and infuse saffron while the water simmers.
Meanwhile, add more oil to your pan if necessary, and cook the capsicum slices for 5-7 minutes, stirring, until tender.
Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the rice and garlic, and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes, until the rice is coated. Add the saffron infused bone broth/stock, tomatoes, green beans, rosemary, salt and pepper, chicken, chorizo (or chickpeas) and stir to combine. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. (If your rice needs a bit more liquid, feel free to add it)
When the fluid is mostly absorbed, stir through the parsley, then stop stirring the pan to allow a “crust” to form on the bottom for a few minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed.
Serve with fresh lemon wedges and salad.