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.
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.
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.