Cookbook 183: La Paella

I wanted a good paella cookbook, one that wasn’t from the US, and it turns out that they’re not that easy to find. Eventually I settled on La Paella by Louise Pickford, an author who was born in the UK, lived in Australia and now has moved to France. I thought she’d probably be able to provide recipes that will work for my availability of ingredients and preferred style of cooking.

And the book isn’t just paella recipes, there are rice puddings, rice heavy stews and some Spanish style pasta dishes. Because cooking paella is a big job, I only ended up cooking two vegetarian ones from the book so far, and a rice pudding. I definitely want to come back and cook more because so many of the recipes look amazing. I’ve already cooked one dish from this multiple times because it is tasty and easy to make. 5 out of 5 stars.

Wild mushroom paella with piquillo peppers (serves 4)


  • 15g mixed dried mushrooms
  • 100g piquillo peppers
  • 500g mixed wild and cultivated mushrooms
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp finely chopped sage leaves
  • grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp saffron strands
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
  • 300g bomba, Calasparra or arborio rice
  • 900ml vegetable stock
  • sea salt
  • alioli, to serve

Crispy sage leaves

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • a handful of small sage leaves


  1. Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and add 100ml of boiling water. Set aside to soak for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid, and finely dice the mushrooms.
  2. Drain and dry the peppers. Finely chop half and thinly slice the remaining peppers, setting the sliced ones aside. Cut or slice the fresh mushrooms so they are all roughly the same size.
  3. Heat half the oil in a 35cm paella pan (or shallow flameproof casserole dish). Add the fresh mushrooms and stir-fry over a high heat for 3 – 4 minutes, until evenly golden. Stir in the dried mushrooms and cook for a further 3 – 4 minutes, until any juices have been cooked off. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the garlic, chopped piquillo peppers, paprika, sage, saffron, lemon zest and a little salt and fry over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until softened and slightly golden. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, until you have a paste-like mixture.
  5. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute, then add the stock and the reserved mushroom liquid. Bring to a boil and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, then stir in the mushrooms and half of the lemon juice. Cook for a further 10 minutes, until the rice is al dente and the liquid absorbed. If you like, add more of the lemon juice to taste.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat, scatter the thinly sliced peppers over the rice, cover the pan and leave to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
  7. For the crispy sage leaves, heat the oil in a small frying pan/skillet and when hot, add the leaves and fry for 1 – 2 minutes, until golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper/paper towels and scatter over the paella. Serve with alioli.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I don’t tend to like mushroom heavy dishes, but this was quite tasty, though Scott thought it was verging on too much mushroom
  • For the cooking of the garlic, peppers, herbs and zest, I cooked it for less than 10 minutes, because I didn’t want it to burn. This seemed to be fine. Pretty sure I cooked the tomato longer than 5 minutes, so it balanced out.
  • If you are like me and hate saffron, you can substitute it for turmeric

Moorish paella with preserved lemons (serves 6)


  • 60ml olive oil
  • 50g whole raw almonds
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 carrots, finely sliced
  • 200g peeled and seeded butternut squash (pumpkin), finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp saffron strands
  • 1/2 bunch of coriander, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
  • 300g bomba, Calasparra or arborio rice
  • 900ml vegetable stock
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp sliced preserved lemon peel
  • sea salt
  • harissa alioli to serve


  1. Heat half the oil in a 35cm paella pan (or shallow flameproof casserole dish). Add the almonds and stir-fry over a medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes, until evenly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the onion, garlic and a little salt over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the carrots, squash/pumpkin, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon and saffron strands and half of the chopped coriander. Fry for a further 5 – 6 minutes, until the carrots and squash/pumpkin are slightly softened.
  3. Add the rice to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 – 3 minutes, until the grains are lightly toasted. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer over a medium-low heat for 20 minutes, until the rice is al dente.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, scatter over the cranberries, preserved lemon, toasted almonds, remainder coriander and leave to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Stir together and serve with harissa alioli.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I have cooked this several times since cooking it the first time. A great winter warming dish, very tasty, not difficult
  • I now use slivered almonds and toast those, because they’re easier to eat. I skip the dried cranberries and saffron, and the dish is still great.
  • To make the harissa alioli, get alioli and harissa, select your preferred amount of both, blend. Buying both is much easier than making either, but if you want to make either, the internet has many recipes.

Chocolate rice pudding with candied orange (serves 6 – 8)


  • 80g bomba, Calasparra or arborio rice
  • 750ml full-fat milk
  • 250ml water
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder (plus extra to dust (optional))
  • 1 tbsp Grand Marnier or Cointreau
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • vanilla ice cream, to serve

Candied orange

  • 1 orange
  • 60ml water
  • 60g caster sugar


  1. Start by making the candied orange. Peel the orange zest and using a small knife, cut it into thin julienne strips. Add the caster sugar and water to a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, add the orange zest and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the zest is really softened and almost translucent. Set aside in a bowl and let cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse the rice and place it in a medium saucepan with the milk and water. Heat gently, stirring until it comes to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  3. Next, add all the remaining ingredients to the pan and continue to stir for a further 10 minutes, until the rice is al dente and you reach the desired consistency. It should be like a thick pouring custard.
  4. Spoon the rice pudding into dishes and set aside to cool. Serve at room temperature topped with vanilla ice ream and the reserved candied orange. Dust with a little cocoa powder if you like.

Notes on the recipe:

  • This was a very delicate desert, not overly sweet, very nicely balanced.
  • I always wonder when making things like this about how the tiny amount of rice and the large amount of liquid manages to make something delicious and edible, but it works anyway. Chemistry is wild.