Don’t forget that the main ingredient in a paella is the rice, so the way that you flavour the rice will be purely down to the ingredients and stock that you use during cooking. Fresh stocks can be made well in advance and kept in the freezer for up to 6 months. I like to freeze my stock in ice cube trays, so I can take out what I need by simply popping the cubes out. This is my favourite paella stock as it works really well with both seafood or mixed paella dishes. The key is to allow the flavours in the stock to cook together for at least 30 minutes, blend the mix and reduce by half to concentrate and make the stock rich and intense.
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Head and shells of 12 large tiger or carabinero prawns
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, finely sliced
1 celery stalk, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 Garlic head, cut in two
100ml dry white wine
3 beef tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme
3 sprigs of parsley
1 star anise
5 litres of fresh water
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Roast the prawn shells in the oven for 15 minutes and set aside.
To make the stock, heat the olive oil in a large stock pot pan over a low heat. Add the onion, leek, celery, carrots and garlic and gently sauté for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the bay leaf, thyme and parsley and stir well for a couple of minutes until the herbs are soft, add the roasted prawn shells and cook for a couple of minutes.
Increase the heat and pour the brandy and flambé making sure you scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, reduce the brandy by half. Pour the white wine and reduce by half again. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, followed by the water and star anise.
Bring to the stock to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
Allow the stock to cool slightly and transfer the contents to a food processor or blender but don’t forget to remove the star anise first. Carefully blend until smooth.
Season with salt and add a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.
Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of any prawn shell fragments.
Return the stock to a clean pan and place back on a high heat. Bring the stock to the boil and reduce the liquid by half or about 500ml so you concentrate the flavours more.