k  Perfect Paella  k

I have discovered the Holy Grail of the perfect paella thanks to a magic ingredient – Restaurante El Carmen’s Secret Sofrito…a wonderful aromatic blend of gently sautéed onions, garlic, fresh plum tomatoes, saffron, dried nora peppers, smoked paprika but most surprisingly…chicken livers. It’s simmered slowly for hours then passed through a fine sieve, classic Sofrito is a lynchpin of Spanish cookery – it gives the most incredible depth of flavour and robust richness that is unlike any other paella on the planet.

More Paella Essentials

Short-grain rice is critical for any paella, preferably Spanish bomba such as La Fayera. Unlike making risotto, stirring is absolutely forbidden.


Perfectly fresh seafood, shellfish, chicken and rabbit are the other essential ingredient as well as the fish stock that rice is cooked in.


El Carmen go to the trouble of making an incredible fish stock using prawn heads, fish bones, fennel, tomato and brandy. The complexities of flavour are not lost in the finished dish, it is a labour of love and seafood passion that delivers pure paella nirvana…


Is there a perfect time to eat paella? Elisabeth Luard, author of ‘Classic Spanish Cooking’ says:…”rice dishes are traditionally only served at midday. Valencians, the rice experts of Spain, maintain that anyone eating paella in the evening is either a tourist or a native being polite to a tourist.” Furthermore…”to be truly worthy of the name, the cook is always a man and the dish must always be prepared and eaten in the open air. Well we stayed totally true to Paella lore and ticked all the boxes when we filmed our ‘Perfect Paella’ episode for Love Food Ibiza…

For the Secret Sofrito Sauce…

3 Tablespoons olive oil

10 plum tomatoes chopped

1 chopped onion

4 cloves garlic chopped

3 small dried Nora peppers chopped

250g chicken livers (optional if non meat eater)

2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika

handful chopped parsley

pinch saffron

pinch salt

pinch sugar

Ingredients For the Paella (serves 6-8)

5-6 tbsp. olive oil
8 langoustines

12 large raw tiger prawns
250g large fresh mussels, cleaned
200g fresh calamari – cleaned & chopped
300 large fresh clams, cleaned
1½ green peppers, seeded and chopped into 1cm pieces
400g tin/carton passata
4-6 cooked chicken thighs (bones removed chopped into chunks)

400g of secret sauce
600g short-grain paella rice, such as La Fayera
1 heaped tsp loosely packed saffron strands
2 litres good quality fish stock
Handful chopped fresh parsley
lemon wedges to serve


For the Secret Sofrito (you can make in advance)

  1. Put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour over boiling water and leave for 3 minutes; peel and discard the skins, then chop the flesh. Heat the olive oil and add the onions, sugar and salt. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions become golden brown.
  2. Stir in the garlic, chopped chicken livers and stir for a couple of minutes, then add nora peppers, smoked paprika, parsley, saffron and cook for another 30 minutes on medium heat. Sauce is done when it deepens in colour and oil separates out. Puree with a blender, or pass through a fine sieve and season to taste with salt. This keeps in fridge for a week and freezes for three months. With this sauce you can archive paella nirvana.


To make the Paella

  1. Place a 50-60 cm paella pan over a gas burner, if you have one, (or place on 2 cooking rings on a hob) Add the oil and heat until smoking hot- add the langoustines, prawns, mussels and clams and fry for 6–8 minutes until everything cooks evenly and the mussels and clams open (discard any closed ones). Remove all the seafood from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the calamari and green peppers and fry for 5 minutes until the peppers are just softened and the squid becomes white and opaque.
  3. Pour in the passata and the cooked chicken and thoroughly stir
  4. Pour in the Secret Sofrito and scatter over the fresh chopped parsley
  5. Now return all the cooked seafood to the pan apart from the clams, carefully placing the langoustines on the top in a symmetrical design. Gently pour over the fish stock and add the paella rice and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer vigorously for 6 minutes over a medium-high heat, but do not stir, remembering to give the pan a turn every 2 minutes. Then reduce the heat to medium and leave to cook for a further 15 minutes, again without stirring, by which time all the liquid will have been absorbed and the surface of the rice should be pitted with small holes.Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm straight from the pan with lots of lemon wedges, bread and aioli. Taste the sea, taste the love and share with the people you love!