Brown Rice sort-of Seafood Paella

ImageEven though I love baking sweet treats I do spend the most part of my week cooking and eating as healthily as I possibly can. I often try to use recipes that are not so healthy and modify them to make them even better. This can often be tricky as I’m still trying to convince my parents that dinner can still taste great without potato!! But for the most part, they are pretty willing to try whatever strange concoctions I come up with (their pretty great!). So a couple of weeks ago I decided to try a healthy spin on one of my family favourite dishes, Paella. Now Paella in and of itself is pretty good on the health-scale but I of course wanted to see if I could go one better and make it with brown rice instead of a short grain (dad wasn’t too keen and couldn’t understand why I yet again had to change something that I know works perfectly well!) So off to the shops we went, purchasing some beautiful prawns, mussels, squid tubes and choritzo sausage! And then the cooking began. In true Mia style, I’ve researched a whole lot of recipes, putting together all of the best bits and overall I’m really happy with the base recipe. It seems long and fiddly but in reality its just got a few (maybe more then a few) easy steps, that, when put together have a beautiful flavour true to Spanish food.

Normally, (when I use a short grain rice such as arborio) the dish takes about 35-40mins to make but knowing that I was using brown rice I allocated 45-50mins. Off I went, cooking away and the smells and flavours were fantastic (if I do say so myself). I added stock and stirred and tasted and still after almost 45mins the rice was no where near cooked. My family was getting hungry, moving closer and closer to the kitchen so I knew I had to hurry up but there was just no way to speed up the process! I knew that the seafood wouldn’t take very long at all to cook, so I didn’t want to add it until that rice was cooked through. So there I was faced with an ultimate dilemma, keep cooking the rice and have a hungry/angry family or just stick the seafood in and hope that it cooks at the same time as the seafood. I opted for the second option which in the end was not as bad as I had thought. The rice was just cooked through, with a slight firmness to it, while the seafood cooked through perfectly. I’d have to say that the flavours in this Paella were my best by far. Sadly though, (and probably because of the length of the grains of rice) the liquid did not absorb as should happen in a Paella and there was no crispy bottom. As opposed to a traditional Paella, the dish was more a Spanish rice with seafood and tomato sauce, maybe closer to a gumbo then a Paella. That being said, it was absolutely delicious and even my dad (whose not such a fan of brown rice) thought it was great!

So here’s my recipe, I’d recommend it for sure but just allow at least an hour for the rice to cook through and remember that it won’t be exactly like a traditional Paella. But that just goes to show that you can make Paella with brown rice! Alternatively, you can still use this recipe with arborio or spanish rice (I’ve even used sushi rice before and that works a treat!) and could make it with chicken instead of seafood. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

What you need:

500g Green prawns, peeled

1 Squid tube, cut into rings

1kg Mussels, de-bearded and cleaned

2 sticks of choritzo

1 cup brown jasmine rice

1 onion, diced

1 capsicum

1 tin chopped tomato

1L chicken stock

Smoked Paprika

pinch saffron threads

handful frozen peas

chopped parsley

What I did:

1. First off, chargrill your capsicum over an open flame on your stovetop. I literally leave it sitting on the flame, turning occasionally until the whole thing is black and charred. To remove the skin, pop it straight into a plastic bag and tie a knot in the top. The steam will help to remove the skin and then (while its still in the bag rub it all over to remove it. Take the capsicum out of the bag, rinse under cold water and remove the seeds inside.

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2. Using a food processor, blend your capsicum and diced tomato to make a saucy/liquid,

3. Heat a splash of extra virgin olive oil in your Paella pan and add your diced onion, cooking to translucent but not brown. Then add your diced choritzo sausages and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile heat up your stock in the microwave and add your saffron threads. leave them to “dissolve” and flavour. Add a good dash of paprika to your pan and cook out for 1-2mins, until it starts to give off a beautiful fragrant smell. Then add your brown rice, stirring to coat in the paprika. (I haven’t included a measurement here as its just to your taste).

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4. Finally, add the tomato/capsicum mixture from earlier and about half your stock, stirring it all to combine. Continue to stir your rice, adding more liquid as required for about 45mins (or until the rice is tender and just about cooked).

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5. At this stage, add half your seafood and stir it through, before adding the rest to decorate the top of the Paella. Once this is done, no more stirring, this will help to form a crisp bottom to the rice. Sprinkle with frozen peas and leave for 5 mins.

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6. Before serving, top the whole thing with lots of freshly chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

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Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

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Risotto al Nero di Seppia…AKA Squid Ink Risotto

ImageOne of my most favourite dinner recipes to make in Summer is Squid Ink Risotto. While for some people, the thought of eating squid ink is a little odd, I absolutely love it! I’m not quite sure exactly how I would describe the flavour that Squid Ink adds to a dish other than that it is distinctly seafood-like without being overbearing or “fishy”. I think that part of the reason that I love this dish is because of the story behind the first time I ever encountered it. For me, this dish reminds me of my first time overseas when I travelled to Spain. Prior to this, I had never tried Squid Ink, come to think of it I don’t think I had even realised you could use it as an ingredient! But I saw it on a menu one night at dinner and thought “hey why not” after being told it was quite a traditional Spanish dish. When it came out to the table, I was presented with a beautiful white plate filled with plump little grains of black rice which was served with sweet juicy mango, fresh basil and ripe roasted tomatoes. I can honestly still taste the it! As I ate it all I could think of was “wow! I can’t wait to cook this for my family when I get home” and thats exactly what I did. Over the years I’ve found a few different recipes online which I’ve gradually adapted to match what I remember to be the flavours of what I tasted in Spain. So here it is, my recipe for Risotto al Nero di Seppia (aka Squid Ink Risotto).

 

 

What You’ll Need: (Serves 4)

1 TBS Squid Ink (you can buy this from some deli’s, the fish markets or your local fish shop might keep them when they clean the squid)Image

3 shallots or 1 red onion (finely diced)

1 bay leaf

250g Arborio Rice (traditionally Carnaroli Rice is used)

250ml white wine

1L chicken stock

70g butter

125ml Verjuice/lemon juice

Grilled baby Octopus or prawns to garnish

Basil leaves (garnish)

Cherry Tomatoes (spray lightly with olive oil and roast in the oven for 30mins)

1 Mango cheek, peeled and sliced

What I Did:

1. In a large saucepan, heat a small amount of olive oil and add your diced shallots or onion. Keep the heat low so that these soften without becoming browned or burnt. Heat your stock in a separate pan or in a container in the microwave.

2. Turn the heat up to a medium-high level and add your rice, stirring through the onion mixture. This is called toasting the rice and is important as it will help it to absorb all the liquid later. Keep stirring until the rice becomes slightly translucent in the centre. 

3. Add your wine, deglazing the pan and let this simmer for a couple of minutes or until it is mostly absorbed.Image

4. Now for the boring part! Add your stock, ladle by ladle until it is absorbed. You need to stir the rice continuously so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Also add your bay leaf at this stage. This process should continue for about 14mins or until the rice has just a slight bite to it.

5. Add your squid ink (from this point on use a plastic spatula to stir the mixture. A wooden spoon will stain and trust me, it NEVER comes out!). Continue stirring and adding stock for a further four minutes

6. At the end of this time, your rice should be cooked through but still have a very slight bite to it (so its not mushy). Turn the heat off and add your butter and verjuice, stirring the mixture. Pop a lid on top and leave to sit for five minutes. Now would be a good time to cook your seafood or set yourself up for plating. 

7. Give it a taste and see if it needs any extra salt or pepper. It generally should be fairly well salted already from the squid ink and stock so I don’t normally add any extra, but its completely up to your taste. 

8. If your adding seafood, stir it in and then serve in a nice bowl, topping with fresh mango, roasted tomato and basil. (Note, don’t use tinned mango. I’ve tried it once before and it was way too sweet and a little slimy from the sugar syrup it was tinned in. For this recipe, fresh is best wherever possible! Also please please give the mango a go! I know fruit in a savoury dish is a bit unusual but it completely makes it! I promise!) 

So there it is! my favourite Summer recipe! Hope your adventurous enough to give it a go! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

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