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FOOD: A DISH MED IN HEAVEN!; Dreaming of lazy, hazy summer days already? Get a taste of things to come with a perfect paella served up by PHIL VICKERY, the official This Morning TV chef...

Byline: PHIL VICKERY

PHIL'S PERFECT PAELLA

WHAT'S paella? It's a favourite quiz question, inevitably answered as "a Mediterranean dish of rice, chicken and prawns". Actually, it isn't that at

all.

Paella is nothing more than the name of the cooking vessel - a large, heavy, flat saute pan. And the dish, of Arab origin, can contain just about anything, the only staples being rice and a colouring of saffron.

I've had paella with chicken, prawns, pork, rabbit, mussels, lobster - you name it. But I think it's a dish best kept relatively simple and I reckon my version is just that, while still maintaining a wonderful collection of textures and tastes that will have you dreaming of sunny summer holidays.

Peasants of the past cooked this in the embers of fires made from vine prunings, but fortunately a hotplate will do nicely and you'll only need about an hour from start to finish.

INGREDIENTS

170g (6oz) long grain rice

3 tbsp olive oil

About 112 pints of well-flavoured fish stock

1 small onion, peeled and chopped finely

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

12 tsp paprika

Large pinch of saffron stamens

1 large chicken breast, skin removed

115-170g (4-6oz) green beans, topped and tailed

6 king prawns, heads removed

1 tbsp unsalted butter

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Serves 4-6

METHOD

1. Heat the olive oil in a large flat saute pan - this is essential to cook the paella properly.

2. Add the chicken and brown all over. Remove, then add the prawns. Again brown well on both sides then remove.

3. Add the onions and garlic and cook over a low heat - you may need to add a touch more olive oil. Cook for a few minutes.

4. Add the saffron, paprika, rosemary and rice and stir around for a few seconds. Then add the chicken, half the hot fish stock and salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, covered.

5. Add the prawns and green beans and a little more stock, if required, and cook for a further 10 minutes uncovered or until everything is cooked, but not overcooked.

6. When cooked, add the butter and stir in, cover and leave to rest for five minutes before you serve.

TAKE A TIP

The secret of great paella is to make sure the beans are green, the chicken cooked but not overcooked, and the prawns cooked perfectly.

You can cook the prawns either with their shells on or off - it's only a matter of taste.

Arborio rice can be used instead, as it's very similar to the traditional, hard Spanish rice.

Saffron is very expensive because it takes the stamens of 4,000 crocuses to produce one ounce! But you can buy it in tiny amounts.

Do make sure you use strong fish stock - it really does make all the difference.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Mar 4, 2001
Words:477
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