Sunday, 18 April 2010

Paella on the BBQ

Paella originates from the Valencian region of Spain and is cooked in a "paellera" (a wide, shallow pan with looped handles), from which the dish gets its name. It would also traditionally be cooked outside on an open wood fire. Given the glorious spring weather we've been having I decided to replicate this and put my own paellera to good use out on the barbecue.

Start by lighting the barbecue as normal. Meanwhile put a good pinch of saffron threads in a saucepan with a litre of chicken stock and bring it to a simmer. Once the flames have died down and the charcoal has a covering of grey ash, set the paella pan on the barbecue grid and heat a good slug of oil. Next add a finely chopped onion and a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and sweat them off, stirring for 5 minutes or so until softened and starting to caramelise. Then add 4 chicken thighs and once nicely browned add some sliced chorizo and a chopped red pepper. Once this is cooking sprinkle in the rice (about 300g), stirring until the grains begin to soak up the oil.

A note about the rice; the best rice for paella is bomba, a Spanish short-grain rice that is able to absorb three times its volume in liquid. When cooked, the grains remain separate and do not stick together. The rice in paella should be dry and separate when done, not creamy like risotto. Also, it isn't paella if it is made with long grain rice.

Finally add the hot stock and season, gave it a good stir.

It is a good idea at this stage to push any grains floating above the liquid back under to ensure you are not left with any raw rice at the end. Now leave the paella to cook for about 20 minutes, resist the urge to stir but rotate the pan occasionally so the bottom cooks evenly. If the liquid seems to be boiling off too quickly you may need to add a little more, so have some hot water or more stock handy.
Don't worry about the paella sticking or burning; it is authentic to have a crust or "soccaratis" (the caramelized crust of rice that sometimes sticks to the bottom of the pan) and this is the prize in a well-made paella.

It's done when the rice has absorbed all the stock and is just tender.

Remove the paella from the heat and cover the pan with foil. Leave for 5 minutes to cool slightly, then stir in plenty of chopped parsley and serve with fat wedges of lemon.



  1. Interesing stuff. I've seen Paella been cooked outside numerous time on holidays, but it's something we should do more of over here. That crust on the bottom of the pan is paramount!!

  2. Sounds good. I thought, mistakenly, that paella was a fish dish.

  3. Hi Leigh. I have to admit that I didn't quite get the crust I wanted this time! I couldn't resist a stir or two, but next time will leave well alone!

    That is an interesting point, Katy.
    The Valencian's are very passionate about what constitutes authentic Paella (and my version probably isn't it).
    "Paella Valenciana" is the traditional version. It was originally cooked by labourers in the fields at lunch time with what they had available, and so contained meat (often rabbit, chicken and sometimes duck), snails, green vegetables and beans.
    On the coast seafood came to replace meat and snails and they omitted the beans and green vegetables. "Seafood Paella", the dish we are probably more familiar with was born.
    "Mixed Paella" then evolved from there as a free-style combination of meat, seafood, vegetables and sometimes beans.