Quick and Easy Spanish Paella Recipe
This Recipe Will Give You a Taste of Spain
I learned to make this quick and easy paella because my mother lived on the Spanish Costa del Sol in Málaga for 25 years, where we experienced the delights of Spanish food.
Every Sunday we would have paella at a different beach cafe—it is the traditional Sunday lunch for many Spanish families, equivalent to a Sunday roast in England. Sometimes we could sit at the bar of a beach cafe and watch the cook at work as he was throwing ingredients into the huge paella pan. We'd listen to its sizzling, savouring the spicy aroma wafting our way. The sand would shimmer in the heat, the waves would lap up the beach, and we'd each have a glass of sangria in hand.
If you don't have all of the equipment listed, just use whatever you have available.
- 1 or 2 large, deep, flat-bottomed pans, or a paella dish (even a large wok would do)
- 1 large mixing spoon
- A cutting board
- A serrated kitchen knife for cutting vegetables
- A sharp kitchen knife for cutting meat or seafood
- 1 to 2 large onions, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 inch of fresh ginger
- 2 peppers, large
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 500 to 750 grams raw chicken, chopped into small pieces
- 1 cube chicken stock
- 250 grams shelled prawns, frozen
- 500 grams Paella or Arborio rice
- 250 grams frozen peas
- 1 teaspoon saffron
- 2 medium or large tomatoes
- A sprinkling of chili powder
- A sprinkling of paprika
- 1 to 2 mussels per person (optional)
- 1 to 2 prawns per person (optional)
- 2 sprigs of coriander
To save time, assemble all of your ingredients first.
- Fry onions slowly in a generous amount of olive oil until translucent golden brown.
- Add the chicken, chili and garlic and cook until lightly browned. To save time, cook in a second pan while the onion is browning.
- Whilst the chicken and onion are cooking, de-seed and chop the peppers into large chunks. Add to either pan together with the cloves, ginger, saffron and paprika, along with any other optional flavourings, and continue frying gently and stirring for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add another generous tablespoon of olive oil and pour in the rice, stirring and frying it for 2 to 3 minutes until all the rice grains have been lightly coated with oil and are slightly translucent.
- Combine the rice with all the other ingredients into a single pan and add the chicken cubes and about 1 pint of boiling water. Stir until the cubes are dissolved.
- Cover and let simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the peas and small prawns, stirring them in evenly.
- Slice the tomatoes and arrange the slices in a circle on top of the rice.
- If you wish, decorate the paella with the large prawns, mussels and coriander. Slice the lemons into quarters and add these to the top, squeezing some juice over the rice. Put the lid back on and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes. If the rice looks dry, add a little more water so that the cooked rice is a little sticky—neither floating in water nor dried out.
- Serve when the rice is cooked and soft. Traditionally, paella is served at the table straight from the paella pan.
If you bring the paella pan to the dining table, remember to first put something on the table to protect it from the boiling hot metal pan.
Substitutions for Your Paella Recipe
Remember, you can make a meat paella, a seafood paella or a mixed paella, so choose your ingredients according to what you have available or can easily buy. If you don't have all the ingredients listed above, here are some substitutions you can make:
- Instead of garlic cloves, you can use 1 to 2 teaspoons of powdered garlic.
- Replace fresh ginger with 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger.
- If your chicken is already cooked, add an additional chicken stock cube.
- A fish or prawn stock cube can take the place of the chicken stock cube.
- Short or long-grain rice works instead of Paella or Arborio rice.
- If you haven't got lemons, use a good squirt of bottled lemon juice.
- Saffron is expensive—if you don't have it on hand, you can use turmeric instead, which gives off a better color (but not a better flavour).
It's quicker to use two pans so that you can cook things simultaneously, thus cutting off a few minutes of cooking time. It also gives the food more room to fry at the bottom of the pan.
Don't Be Put Off by the Long List of Ingredients
You probably already have most of the ingredients.
Paella is a traditional Spanish rice dish, normally made with whatever meat or fish and vegetables you have to hand. Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients—you probably have most of these things in your cupboard, and if you leave something out or substitute it, you can still enjoy your paella and feel proud of your imaginative variation.
The thing about paella is that it is a traditional rice dish that varies from province to province, using whatever local ingredients are on hand. Sometimes, in the Spanish interior, it is made with just meat, such as chicken or rabbit. On the coast, it is sometimes made with a mixture of seafood such as prawns, mussels, squid, octopus and/or fish. It can also be made with a mixture of meat and seafood—and you can try adding different vegetables, too.
Keep in mind that this is not "haute cuisine"—it's an easy, rough-and-ready, seat-of-your-pants style of cookery. You can do it. Have faith in yourself! Just experiment until you get it right. With the ingredients above, it will still taste good, even if it doesn't look right. Rome wasn't built in a day!