Paella – Lena’s Version

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Paella

Growing up in Portugal everything we did revolved around food, and wine! The love of cooking started at an early age. Spent many evenings watching the women in my family cooking those great meals for family holidays and events. I also learned to cook, the fishermen’s way, from my dad. I always felt cooking was more than just food or substance. It was a treasured time spent with family and friends, enjoying wonderful meals with great wine, listening to family stories and passing down traditions. Great memories were created around the kitchen table.

Fast forward to present times and a new country, and I still try to keep up those same traditions I enjoyed growing up.

A few weeks ago, celebrating our wedding anniversary, I made my version of paella. I’ve had this recipe since I was 14 years old; I started collecting recipes at a young age. Several friends have asked for the recipe, so here it is. If you get to make it, hope you enjoy it. Let me know if you made adjustments and how it turned out. Bom apetito!!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 spanish chorizo sausage, thickly sliced
  • 1 medium sized spanish onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz) of diced tomatoes or whole, hand-crushed
  • 1 Tbsp of ginger (I use the paste version)
  • 2 cups of short grain Spanish rice
  • 4 cups of fish stock, or warm water
  • 2 generous pinches of saffron threads (you can use less, depends on taste)
  • 1/2 lbs of squid, cut thin slices
  • 6 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1/2 lbs of mussels, scrubbed
  • 4 scallops
  • 1/2 lbs of jumbo shrimp ( I use raw and unpeeled for the flavor, but you can buy peeled and deveined)
  • 2 lobster tails
  • 1/2 cup of sweet peas, frozen and thawed
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • flat-leaf parsley, chopped for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste ( I taste as I go along) start with a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.

1 Heat oil in a paella pan over medium-high heat. Saute the chorizo until browned, remove and reserve. Meanwhile, cook the lobster tails, in a large pot of salted (1 Tbsp) of water, for about 3 to 5 minutes or until they start to turn orange and curl. Remove from water and let them cool.

2 In the paella pan, make a sofrito by sauteing the onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a medium heat. Add the squid and cook for a couple of minutes. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld. Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. Pour in fish stock or water and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. (I like to add half the liquid and see how it cooks and add more if necessary – I’m cooking at altitude) Add the chorizo, and saffron. Add the mussels, scallops, clams and shrimp, tucking them into the rice. The shrimp will take about 8 minutes to cook. Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the rice is filling the pan, add the lobster tails. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom, then it’s perfect.

3 Remove from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with peas, parsley and lemon wedges.

Vacationing in Portugal

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Typical house façade in Alentejo

Portugal is home, more specifically, Algarve. We don’t visit as often as we would like, but try to go at least every two or three years to visit family and friends. The last time we visited was in 2016. Time to start looking at flights!

Portugal had remained the lesser known of the european countries, until about ten or so years ago, when Portugal was highlighted on several american travel publications. These articles went on to list Portugal on the Top 10 Best Places to Retire and Visit. Of course, it’s been the vacation hot-spot for british citizens for many years, as well as other european nationals. But now we have noticed more american tourists, especially in the larger cities like Lisbon and Porto.

Algarve has over 100 miles of coastline with wonderful sandy beaches, small fishing villages, and many golf resorts. The weather is mild in the winter months. Temperatures start to warm up in March, but July and August are the peak summer months. My favorite months are May and September, before and after the crowds.

But, there is more to Portugal than the beaches. I love to visit the Alentejo region everytime we travel to Portugal. To me personally, it has the best wines. The terrain is hot and dry; perfect for those earthy dry red wines that we favor. The cuisine of Alentejo is rustic and delicious. Pork and lamb are abundant in the area. Should you stop at any of the roadside restaurants, you are greeted by the warm and friendly locals, and great regional dishes. I especially like to stop in the “tascas”; small snack-bars.

Of the many wineries we have visited, we keep going back to our favorites: Esporao, Rocim and Ervideira are just a few. Esporao and Ervideira are close to each other just outside Reguengos, Rocim is a bit more south, a couple of miles from the town of Cuba. This area is rich in history, dating back to the roman times. Well worth visiting.

It seems that two weeks just isn’t enough to do everything we want to do. I think we need to retire so we can travel more. Work gets in the way…

We try to sneak to our neighbors in Spain if time permits. On our last trip, we visited Jerez de La Frontera, were we enjoyed the local sherry and the spanish hospitality. Had a great time golfing at a small golf resort just outside of town. After a few days, we drove down to the coast for some beach time along the mediterranean sea. Stopped in the small town of Estepona, were we enjoyed great sangria and paella; I like to try it in different places to see who makes it the best. (Best sangria: bartender at the beach shack @ Playa de Isla Canela) On our way back to the Algarve, we drove over to Marbella for a quick stop, knowing it would be busy; it’s always busy. It is the place to be and be seen! Next trip over the pond, we want to spend more time in Spain. Trying to plan something in the Basque region. Maybe plan it around the Vuelta!

Spanish countryside outside Jerez de La Frontera

Having grown up in the Algarve, there are many different places I consider “my favorites”. If you are travelling to the area, drop a line. I’ll be happy to share some of my many favorites spots. When is your next trip to Europe?