Winning Masterchef and being on the telly has had so many positive implications over the past couple of years (a few negatives too I hasten to add), but one of the best things has been the array of amazing people people I have met, and old friends with whom I have become reacquainted. One such gathering was a fundraiser for a group of 16 people who paid hard cash in return for my cooking skills, with all proceeds and profits going to the charity Teach a Man to Fish (once the ingredients had been bought). So with 16 hungry mouths to feed, and the prospect of a humble dinner transforming into a bit of a night to remember, I knew that I had to pull off a show-stopper of a dinner.
A Paella was the perfect choice; joyous ingredients - with lots of delicious shellfish, colourful, flavoursome and of course great for everyone to share - the consummate party food. For the best bargains, I headed to Billingsgate Market to procure excellent quality shellfish. Langoustines really added that extra 'glamour' to the dish, and made a great talking point too. The Paella pan and rice were purchased at Brindisa, along with a Torta de Santiago which made light work of dessert, I served slices of the almondy tart with Strawberries and sliced Figs in a Jerez Sherry syrup.
Recipe wise, I have foolishly forgotten quantities, please change accordingly.
1 Box (3kgs) Langoustines
2 bundles (1.5 kgs) Razor Clams
3 kg Venus Clams
2 kg Mussels
1.5/2 kg Callaspara White Paella Rice
1 Btl White Wine to flambe the Langoustines
1.5/2 L Chicken Stock
2 Fennel Bulbs
6 Pimentos/Sweet Red Peppers
10 Banana Shallots
6 Fat cloves of Garlic
1 kg Shelled fresh Peas
5g Box of Saffron
Parsley/Tarragon to garnish
To prepare, the shallots, garlic, and fennel are slowly sweated down for 15 to 20 minutes in good olive oil. Intermittent splashes of Vermouth are then added, along with the saffron strands. This base is cooked for a further 10 minutes to allow the full flavour of the saffron to permeate the shallot base. In the mean time, the clams and mussels are cleaned and thoroughly washed. The razor clams are steamed open for a minute or two in white wine and chicken stock, the resulting juices strained and saved for the Pealla. The Razor Clam meats are then removed and keep warm. The shells saved for decoration.
Then the red pepper is then added to the shallot mix, along with the rice which is coated in the richly fragrant saffron/shallot base. The stock is added, along with the clam juices, seasoning and the fresh peas. The whole dish is covered with foil and left for 5 mins. After 5 mins the clams and mussels are placed into the swelling rice, hinges down and recovered and left to cook for 25 minutes until the rice is cooked and the clams and mussels have opened. The dish was finished with an army of Langoustines, that were flash cooked in a little butter, olive oil and white wine, then roasted in a hot oven for 10 minutes. All the luscious juices were kept and drizzled over the paella. The Langoustines were then draped over the dish for effect.