Traditional paella is an outdoor dish. It is customary in Spain for men, rather than women, to make paella. (We can imagine a Gender Studies essay topic as: ‘The Spanish paella and the Australian barbecue: compare and discuss the male role in each’.)
I have great memories of outdoor paellas cooked in Spain over a dying fire on the edge of the forest. We used rice from a sack, a few onions and tomatoes, with the addition of some wildlife gleaned from the hills, such as wild snails and pieces of freshly shot rabbit.
For this version we have replaced the snails with periwinkles and are cooking on a stovetop in the kitchen. But I know a lot of adventurous cooks who will make their own bed of coals. A word of warning — make sure the paella is perfectly flat and level on the coals, otherwise the liquid will run to one side and cook only one half of the paella, leaving the other side high and dry.
Cut the rabbit into 12 pieces — cut the hind legs into two pieces, leave the front legs of the rabbit whole and leave the saddles attached at the backbone, but cut in a cross section into six pieces.
Confit the rabbit by laying the pieces flat in a deep roasting tin, which is just large enough to comfortably fit the rabbit pieces in a single layer. Lay the garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs on top. Cover with the olive oil. You may need more or less oil, depending on your roasting tin.
Scrub the mussels and pull out the hairy beards. Rinse well and drain. Discard any broken mussels, or open ones that don’t close when tapped on the bench. Cover with a damp cloth and refrigerate until ready to use. Make a shallow cut with a very sharp small knife along the length of each prawn back. Remove and discard the dark vein and shell, leaving on the head and tail.
To make the paella, heat the extra virgin olive oil in a
From this point onwards, do not stir the paella, as the socorat (crust) needs to form on the bottom of the pan. If the flame or element doesn’t cover the base of the pan, move the pan around during cooking to allow the paella to cook evenly.
Once the paella is boiling add the rabbit, placing the pieces evenly around the pan. After 3 minutes add the periwinkles, if using, in between the pieces of rabbit. After another 5 minutes place the fish pieces and squid on top of the rice.
By now the rice will have expanded
When the majority of the stock has been absorbed and small holes appear between the rice (this will take about 10 minutes), place the prawns on top and allow the escaping steam to gently cook them. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the prawns are just pink then turn to cook the other side. Add the broad beans or peas, if using. After 5 minutes, remove from the heat and cover the pan with foil so that any remaining stock is absorbed and the rice separates
Meanwhile, quickly cook the mussels by bringing
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