Chorizo and red pepper paella

Following the recent chilli harvest, we had a large number of the mild chilli pepper Big Jim. These look rather like the more common pointed sweet pepper, and they are mild enough to substitute for them in one of our favourite rice dishes. I am somewhat loath to call this a paella, as this no doubt has specific connotations, but it is inspired by this Spanish dish of rice, seasoned with paprika and saffron.

Mild chilli pepper Big Jim

Mild chilli pepper Big Jim

As with risotto, the type of rice is important, and it is worth seeking out a good paella rice. Whilst a risotto is stirred frequently during cooking, so as to extract starch from the rice to develop the characteristic creamy consistency, a paella and similar dishes are typically not stirred once the rice and liquid have been combined. Instead, they are just simmered gently until cooked; a crust of toasted rice may well form on the bottom of the pan, which is supposed to be part of the dish. Whilst this might work for the traditional dish cooked in the traditional way, I am not quite so concerned with authenticity on this point, and will stir very gently just a few times, just to make sure that the rice does not burn on the pan. If one uses the right sort of rice and avoids stirring as much as possible, the texture will be very different from a risotto but equally delicious, lacking that creaminess and with rather more distinct grains of rice.

Chroizo and red pepper paella

Chorizo and red pepper paella

Although I made this dish to exploit our chilli harvest, I have previously made it with sweet peppers, which work equally well. I have given a prepared weight for the peppers as the amount of core and stem varies considerably depending on which sort is used. Chicken is often included in paella, and could be added to this dish, but it is not really necessary. As always, a good stock is essential. As my homemade stocks are quite flavourful, I usually use a combination of stock and water. I have marked the tomato paste as optional, as I have made this dish with and without it; adding it will provide a somewhat richer colour and flavour. I usually use a chorizo picante for this dish, which adds a pleasant spicy note. If using a mild chorizo, a little red chilli may be added if desired. The recipe calls for smoked paprika, but if not available an ordinary sweet paprika may be used instead. 

Ingredients

(serves 4–6)

  • 450g mild chillies or sweet peppers, prepared weight
  • 300g chorizo
  • 500g paella rice
  • 75g tomato paste (optional)
  • 3–4 onions (500–600g prepared weight)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2l chicken stock and water
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 2tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • Olive oil
  • Maldon salt
  • Black pepper

Preparation

Place the stock and water in a pan and warm. Cut the peppers in half, remove the core, seeds and membrane, and slice coarsely. Peel and finely chop the onions and garlic. Halve the chorizo, remove the skin, and slice.

Method

Sauté the peppers in olive oil for 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat until softened and a little coloured. It really is worth taking the time to cook these properly. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Put a little more oil into the pan and add the chorizo. Cook for 5 minutes or so, until coloured and the oils start to be released. Add the onions and turn down the heat, cooking gently for 10 minutes or so, without browning, until thoroughly softened.

Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Return the peppers to the pan and warm through.

Add the rice, stirring to coat each of the grains with the oil, then pour in the hot stock and water, and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the tomato paste, if using, add the saffron and smoked paprika, and season generously with black pepper and a little salt.

Cook uncovered over a gentle heat until the water is absorbed or evaporated; the dish should be ready within about 20 minutes. Stir only occasionally, as deemed necessary to prevent scorching.

Once the liquid has gone, check the rice to make sure it is properly cooked. There should still be a little bite to the grains. If it is not ready, add a little more water, until the rice is perfect. Once the rice is ready, remove from the heat and leave to stand for a couple of minutes before serving.

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