18 August 2010

Celebration Paella

dairy free egg free nut free

If your child has ever had the good fortune of successfully passing a food challenge, you'll know the word 'celebration' is practically an understatement.

My eldest had a mild allergy to shellfish until an SPT (skin prick test) came up negative near the end of 2009. It took her a few months to work up the courage to embark on a food challenge. Her reluctance was understandable after recently discovering a kiwi fruit allergy by eating a whole one, then vomiting and huskily coughing for half an hour. Out came the Zyrtec - though thankfully, the Epipen stayed in its case. Phew. Once she got over the trauma of that experience, we encouraged her to try a prawn: first rubbing on the inside of her lip, then a quarter portion, increasing to half - then a whole prawn over a number of hours/days and checking for any reactions.

She passed. And we felt like all our Christmases had come at once.

Not only does passing the shellfish challenge mean an abundance of prawns and calamari (though the latter technically a mollusc); but suddenly, oyster sauces, curry pastes containing shrimp and even products containing traces of crustacea all become available to our hungry gourmand.

A paella is traditionally a Spanish peasant dish where a variety of  meats and/or seafood or whatever you have on hand can be added. It doesn't require stirring like a risotto - so you want a nice gentle crust to form on the bottom.

I have a 6 year old shellfish addict now, who wonders why we can't eat prawns every day...

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 large tomato, chopped
300g chicken thigh, diced (or 1 chorizo sausage, sliced)
10 green prawns
1 large squid hood, sliced into 1cm thick rings
1 cup calasparra or arborio rice
2 cups hot vegetable or fish stock
2/3 cup cooked peas
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
10 saffron strands (optional)
lemon wedges

Heat oil in a paella pan or large flat frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, capsicum, tomato and garlic - stir until soft. Add chorizo/chicken until cooked. Add rice and stir to combine. Stir in stock, saffron (if using) and paprika. Ensure the mixture is spread evenly over the pan.

When the stock is boiling, cover and cook over low to medium heat for about 10 minutes until the stock has reduced and the rice is almost cooked. Push the prawns and calamari into the rice and cover for a further 5 minutes. Finally add the peas and parsley and leave it for five more minutes on low heat.

Serve with lemon wedges.

- Do not stir the paella during main cooking
- The perfect time to add seafood is when the stock is reduced enough for the rice to be seen. This is near the end of the cooking time and will allow for delicately steamed and very tender seafood.

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