Pot luck Paella really is

Supper pot luck invites from us mean just that: a pot of stuff, and on this occasion quite a bit of luck. The food of course has to have a bit more effort that an everyday evening, but not such that it gets into dinner party realms: and it needs to support a nice bottle of wine (each, that is!).
So the paella recipe in this Sunday’s OFM, itself from a classic Spanish cookbook called 1080 got the mind and juices thinking. And a very large (500 gms) Octopus clinched it: Octopus and prawn paella.
Now it seems to me as a frequent risotto cooker, that the difference between the two classic rice dishes are few: the kind of rice, of course, that paella is finished in the oven, and that risotto has cheese and creamy unctuousness resulting from 30 minutes of hard stirring. So, on the face of it, paella is a cinch.
For once I followed the recipe, adapting to my more limited choice of ingredients. Measured rice (half what is proposed) to 250 gms and half the quantity of stock 1.5 pints. The method was simple: brown finely chopped onion and garlic, add skinned chopped tomato and cook that. Add the chopped up octopus and the rice, cooking in the oil until opaque. Slosh in stock, some parsley that has been ground up with the saffron (I added some sweet paprika). Stir in peas (I used frozen, recipe says tinned!!!). Put sliced peppers on top. Stick in oven.
Twenty minutes later I looked and had a fine dish of rice soup. Far, far, far too much liquid. Small panic as guest is a) great cook, b) mother of daughter who runs own v successful catering outfit, c) at my left shoulder. Send her away and ladle out large quantity of delicious broth (tomorrow’s fish soup?) Turn up the gas and pray.
After a minute or to all begins to look well. Add prawns and more parsley. Rescue now forgotten French stick just in time. Try to look cool and serve.
Result? Well, a result. Full of flavour in spite of light hand on seasoning. Rich and creamy and quite like a paella. The fish was very meaty and contrasted well with the prawns and rice.
The reason for the problem? For a start I automatically put the lid on the casserole that was substituting for a paella dish – wrong, no chance for evaporation. But I still think it was too much stock. So next time I’ll do the “just under an inch above the rice” measurement that I always do – and leave the lid off…
PS The picture is from the book – not my effort!!

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