After a summer trip to Valencia, and a rather beautiful Paella Valenciana, I’ve been inspired to come up with my own alternative interpretation. Paella was traditionally cooked over wood from orange trees which gave it a smoky aroma, so I’ve used smoked ‘Chipotle Meco’ chillies to try and reproduce this effect. Chipotle Meco are Jalapeno chillies that have been smoked for long periods of time (often several days) to impart a really smoky and rich flavour that can do incredible things to a dish. They’re quite rare, and most of them don’t get outside Mexico (the chipotle more often seen in the UK are the smaller and cheaper ‘Chipotle Morita’ variety). Handily I have a small store that I sell them through on ebay, so I always have plenty to hand!!
The dish is medium hot, a mild version can be made by using only 1 chipotle meco chilli. This version contains no meat, but is richly flavoured thanks to the chipotle chilli – feel free to use chicken stock and add meat if you like, I’d recommend rabbit or hare in the spirit of the original recipe (they’re also at their best in Autumn), duck is also an option. Use seasonal greens, and add green beans or runner beans if they’re still in season. Remember – whatever you think the authentic paella is, it probably isn’t, so experiment!
1 long red pepper
1 small chilli pepper, deseeded
1-2 chipotle meco chillies
1 pint (568ml) vegetable stock
1 tsp tumeric
250g short grain rice (paella rice or
1 handful sliced kale (cavolo nero if in season)
1 handful sliced pointed cabbage or savoy cabbage
small handful frozen green peas
juice of 1 lemon
CHIPOTLE FINISHING SAUCE
1 tsp fennel seeds
9 black peppercorns
1-2 tsp sea salt crystals
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1tsp red wine vinegar
soaked reserved chipotle from
1. Put the chipotle meco chillies into a pan with the hot vegetable stock and turmeric and keep on a low heat.
2. Meanwhile, dice the shallots, carrots, peppers and chillies and fry in olive oil with the paprika over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes.
3. Add the rice, stir for 5 minutes until coated.
4. Remove the chipotle chillies and reserve, then add the vegetable stock to the rice mixture. Put the lid on and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, slice the greens and place in a bowl with frozen peas and the lemon juice. Set aside.
6. Grind the dry dressing ingredients then add the reserved chipotle chillies, olive oil and vinegar and puree.
7. Add the greens to the rice mixture and cook for a further 5 minutes.
8. Take the rice mixture off the heat, stir through the finishing sauce, serve and enjoy!