Sunday 4 December 2011
Prawn and chorizo paella for one person to enjoy
With my partner away for the weekend, I was struggling to motivate myself into making a real evening meal. Ironically, the thought of just throwing some pasta into a pan and onto a fast boil when I’m preparing a “dinner for one” is even more tempting now that I’m a (relatively) confident cook than it was when I was a (relatively) naive student. A large portion of my love of cooking comes from seeing other people enjoy my food, so the culinary process seems significantly less pleasurable when there’s no-one else around to appreciate my efforts.
But then I realised that my solo supper status meant that I could be completely selfish for once, and recreate a recipe that would never win the house vote. With a bag of jumbo-sized prawns in the freezer and a lump of chorizo leftover from last night’s spicy sausage stew, this was the ideal opportunity for me to practice a portion of paella for one. It’s my favourite Spanish special, but as a supersized sharing dish I normally avoid it (unless I’m willing to eat a double serving!)
The fiery kick of chorizo and paprika combined with the soft prawns and rice tasted so soothing, I decided that I had to share this recipe online if I wasn’t able to cook it for anyone else in person. So next time you’re home alone, check out this easy, speedy paella recipe – it will guarantee that your next “dinner for one” is anything but dull!
Prawn and chorizo paella (serves 1)
2 shallots (or ½ white onion) 1 clove garlic 25g chorizo
50ml white wine
75g paella rice (risotto rice also works)
1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
½ teaspoon dried thyme
100g bell pepper (red or yellow looks best in this dish)
500ml stock (fish, vegetable or chicken all taste good)
75g frozen peas
100g frozen jumbo prawns
Olive oil and seasoning
1. Pour a splash of olive oil into a wok or other wide-rimmed pan and place on a fairly high heat. Dice the shallots and chorizo and place in the pan with the crushed garlic clove. Cook for around 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent and has soaked up the bright red oil released by the chorizo.
2. Add the paprika, chilli flakes and thyme, then stir in the rice so that all the grains are coated in the spices. Pour in the white wine, and keep the heat on high for a couple of minutes whilst the alcohol burns off.
3. Chop the pepper into large chunks, and add to the pan along with the stock, Reduce the heat slightly, and leave the mixture to simmer for around 15 – 20 minutes. Add seasoning to taste after about 10 minutes, plus more spice if the liquid tastes too mild (I added a dash of cayenne pepper, but you could also use Tabasco or fresh red chilli).
Note: In my view, the key difference between a paella and a risotto is the consistency of the rice and stock mixture. When making risotto, the mixture is continuously stirred in order to break down the starch in the rice, resulting in soft grains served in an oozing sauce that melts in the mouth. In contrast, a paella is ready to serve when the liquid has all disappeared but the rice still has a slight crunch when bitten (when the grains are “al dente”, to use the technical term). This means you should avoid stirring the paella mixture if possible (any bits that stick to the pan will just add to the authentic Spanish feel of the dish!).
4. When the stock has almost all evaporated, add the frozen peas and prawns and quickly mix all of the ingredients together. Continue cooking until the prawns turn soft – this will take up to 5 minutes, depending on whether the prawns are raw or pre-cooked (raw prawns are cooked as soon as their colour changes from grey to pink).
5. Alter the seasoning as required, pile the paella into a big bowl and tuck in – making sure you pause for a moment after the first bite to compliment yourself on cooking such a satisfying supper!