Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Sun 7 Oct 2007

This month's AGT Masterclass took us to Spain (unsurprising in a Spanish issue) and featured a paella. I think 'seafood' when I hear paella and I suspect that food association carried us along to the point that we were faced with jointing a wild Yorkshire rabbit.

Really, the masterclass should have focussed on that exercise, rather than the making of the paella. Despite being taught how to joint a rabbit at a young age, it's not a skill I've exercised so while butchery was definitely involved it was not of the type one might expect. Firstly we had to remove the lights - the easy part. The little beasty was not too eager to split into paella sized parts, and by the time we'd finished (and put a few dings in a not very good knife) we felt we'd been through the paella ringer.

Fortunately, the paella making itself is incredibly forgiving - time consuming, but worth the wait. To begin with, you can substitute chicken for the rabbit. We also found ourselves substituting arborio rice for calasparra and making various small modifications.

What we did do, was vaguely follow proportions. As the dish relies on the rice soaking up the liquids you can't be too happy go lucky (at least, not the first time you make it).

To serve four (so, that's 2 for dinner and to allow for plenty of left overs), boil 1 litre of chicken stock with 1 tsp of saffron threads. Simmer for approximately 5 minutes.

Heat olive oil in your pan and add the meat (2 front, 2 back legs of rabbit) and some chunks of chorizo and brown until golden. At this point you are meant to remove the meat from the pan, but nothing seems to suffer if you leave it in. Add finely sliced onion, garlic and red pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, before adding half a tin of tomatoes. Turn the heat up and cook until the liquid evaporates. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, cooking for approximately 10 minutes or until your meat is cooked through.

Add 200g of rice and a teaspoon of paprika (Spanish smoked, rather than Hungarian sweet), season to taste and cook, without stirring, for a few minutes before adding peas or beans (or both - our pan just wasn't big enough!).

Now, just let the paella cook until the rice absorbs the liquids and ends up tender. This requires a fair bit of faith, as it will look like there's a LOT of liquid. Allow the dish to stand for 10 minutes and then serve, ensuring you are even handed with the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan.
To cook this from start to finish felt like a long process. However, it's worth noting that you could easily prepare ahead: up until you add the stock there's no reason I can see for not doing so. Taking this approach would make the dish a very viable dinner party option - as after that there's nothing to do but add the stock and wait.

The dish was quite a hit - the leftovers are great for lunch, and it's a casual supper which would work just as well to warm you up in the middle of winter as it would as a late summer supper.

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