Saturday, July 20, 2013

20 Jul 13 (Sat) - Seafood Paella

Bought a box of five sachets of paella seasoning during my recent trip to Spain and wanted to try cooking paella. I know that the rice used in paella is different from the normal rice and I had the impression that I would be able to find it in Singapore so I didn't buy the Spanish rice when my friend told me to. How wrong I was. Google about the rice used and found out that Spanish rice are not widely available outside of Spain or Europe. So I had to look for substitute. Some websites recommended long-grain rice while some recommended short-grain rice and that got me really confused. Read the descriptions of the various Spanish rice used for paella and realized that they are short-grain rice hence decided to use Japanese short-grain rice which some websites recommended.

On the box of the paella seasoning was some English instructions but they were vague while those on the sachets were detailed but they were in Spanish. Tried to translate them using Google Translate as well as searched for paella recipes online, hoping to make sense of the instructions and modify them according to my needs. Found one which looked really good and wrote down the ingredients needed. Went to Giant to get the rice, prawns, mussels, white fish, scallops, yellow onion and tomatoes after work yesterday and did my cooking today.

As one sachet is enough for six servings, I used only half to cook for three because I didn't have a big paella pan. Then I realized that I forgot to copy the quantity of ingredients needed in the recipe which I remembered was for four to six servings. So I had to use my own estimations for the entire cooking session. Made the seafood broth as required by the recipe using four mussels with shells, shells of six prawns and 750ml of water. While simmering the broth, grated half of the yellow onion, one small tomato, minced two cloves of garlic, cut the fish into thin slices, washed the rest of the prawns, mussels and rice. The instructions on the sachet stated 600g of rice for six servings, so since I’m only using half the portion so I cut the rice down to 300g.

After the broth was done, I started the actual cooking using the Happycall Pan as a paella pan. Heated up the pan, pour in some olive oil, fried the grated onion till soft and brown before adding the tomato pulp, minced garlic and rice. Fried on high heat for a couple of minutes then spread the rice across the pan before adding in the broth. Used 90ml of broth to dissolve the seasoning and added into the pan. Then went on to add another 450ml of the broth into the pan to cover the rice. Brought it to boil before lowering the heat to let it simmer, constantly shifting the pan over the flame to make sure that all sides are cooked.

Didn't keep track of the timing and added the mussels, prawns and fish in that order when the rice was on level with the broth. Didn't manage to add in all the ingredients I had prepared due to the size of my Happycall Pan. As the rice got cooked and the broth reduced, the mussels were cooked; the prawns and fish slices were half cooked. So covered the pan hoping that the trap heat would cook the prawns and fish slices but only prawns got cooked. The fish slices were still slightly raw. So in the end I had to manually flip the fish slices, covered the pan and turned on high heat for a couple of minutes. Finally the fish slices got cooked but the prawns were overcooked and they became hardened. Off the heat, covered the pan and set aside to let it stand as instructed in the recipe. Went on to pan-fry a few scallops and then topped the paella with them.

The look of the seafood paella was rather good; however, taste wise it was not fantastic. It was a little too bland, rice was a bit too soft and prawns overcooked. My guess was that firstly, the seafood broth wasn't tasty enough, meaning I didn't use enough prawn shells and mussels to cook the broth. Secondly, maybe I had used too much rice and the tasteless broth so ended up with diluted seasoning. Thirdly, the timing of putting in the seafood was not well planned. Oh well… this is after all my first attempt, I shall improve on it with those modifications on my next attempt.

At the end of the cooking and eating, I rewarded myself with loads of summer fruit. Strawberries!

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