Paella is a traditional rice dish from Spain. It is a wonderful blend of various meats, chicken, seafood and vegetables combined with bold rich spices. It is a delicious aromatic combination of complex flavors and tastes. It’s one of my all time favorite dishes. Although authentic paella is said to be from Valencia, Spain, there are many variations to this dish. This is my version of paella with a slightly little Indian twist. It’s an easy one pot meal that’s just perfect for entertaining.
This recipe requires a bit of prep work and cooking in stages, but trust me, it is all well worth any effort. I have also provided my own recipe for pulao masala. Personally, I prefer to make my own but if time is an issue, feel free to use ready made pulao masala. It is easily available in any Indian grocery store. I encourage you to use your favorite vegetables, meats and seafood for this dish. Be creative and feel free to explore!
PAELLA, Indian style!
2 cups Basmati rice, rinsed and drained well
4 cups of good quality chicken stock or vegetable stock (water is fine)
1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
2-3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 large Roma tomato, finely chopped
2 spicy turkey sausages, cut into ½” thick round slices (optional)
6-8 boneless & skinless chicken thighs, cut into pieces
15-20 medium size shrimp, peeled and de-veined
10-15 medium size scallops, trimmed
½ cup green peas (frozen is fine)
½ cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 large red bell pepper, julienned into thin strips
¼ tsp cayenne powder, to taste
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp ground cumin powder
1½ tsp pulao masala
1 good pinch of saffron, soaked in a tbsp or so of lukewarm water
salt & pepper, to taste
juice of ½ lemon
oil as needed, vegetable or canola
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
freshly grated coconut for garnish (optional)
For the PULAO MASALA:
1" piece of cinnamon, broken into pieces
1 black cardamom
10 black peppercorns
4-5 whole cloves
1 tsp shah jeera (black cumin seeds)
1 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
1 tsp black cumin seeds (shah jeera, or substitute cumin)
10 black peppercorns
In a small dry skillet on medium heat, toast the spices for just a few minutes until aromatic and fragrant. Remove from the heat, let cool and grind into a fine powder using a spice mill or clean coffee grinder. Store in the pantry for up to 1 month and in the refrigerator for up to 3 months in an airtight container.
In a large deep skillet on medium high heat, add 1 tbsp of oil. Start to brown the turkey sausage pieces first. This will take just a minute or two per side. Remove and transfer to a plate; keep aside until needed. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken liberally. Then using the same skillet, carefully brown the chicken on both sides. Remove, transfer to a plate and keep aside until needed. Salt and pepper the shrimps and scallops as well. In the same pan, cook the shrimp until just barely pink. Add another tbsp of oil if needed. Remove and transfer to a plate. Lastly, sear off the scallops on both sides and transfer to a plate. Do not overcook since all of the meat and seafood will eventually be returned to the pan for a final and thorough cooking. At this point, we just want to brown the chicken and turkey sausage and just sear off the shrimp and scallops.
To the same skillet on medium high heat, add 1 tbsp of oil if needed. Add the onion and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry until the onion has just browned. Add the spices (salt, pepper, cayenne, turmeric, ground cumin powder and pulao masala). Stir fry for 2-3 minutes and add the rice. Stir well and stir fry for a few more minutes until the rice is well coated with all of the spices and oil. Next, add the corn and tomatoes to the skillet. Stir for a few more minutes and now add the chicken pieces back to the skillet. Now add the cooking liquid (chicken stock, vegetable stock or water). Scrape up all of the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet and let the liquid come up to a good boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and let cook for 15-20 minutes. Do not peek!
Lastly, add the carrots, red bell peppers, the seafood (shrimp and scallops) and the turkey sausage along with any juices. Mix well to combine all of the ingredients and stir in the saffron along with any soaking liquid. This will give the dish a wonderful floral fragrance and subtle taste. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the cover and add the peas and lemon juice. Stir well and let cook for just a few more minutes uncovered. Garnish with freshly grated coconut and freshly chopped cilantro. Serve immediately and enjoy.