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Smokey Mussel Paella

Course Main Course
Cuisine Spanish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4


  • Olive oil for frying
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 to matoes
  • Salt
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • ½   cup white wine
  • 3 ½    cups of vegetable stock
  • 800 grams +-30  fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1 pinch of saffron +-30 threads
  • 1 can of smoked mussels
  • 1 ¼   cups round grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon ground chilli
  • 2-3 lemons for garnish
  • cup chopped parsley


  1. Start off by assembling all of your ingredients. Make sure that the mussels are clean and debearded. Also, open the can of smoked mussels and remove the mussels from the oil which covers them, and set aside reserving the oil as well.
  2. The first step of the paella to get on the go is the ‘sofrito’ component, which is a simple tomato, onion and garlic sauce, made by cooking the tomato, onion and garlic together for up to 40 minutes. To begin, take you tomatoes and cut them in half. Then using a box grater, grate them starting on the inside. The tomato will grate into the box, and you will be left holding the empty tomato skin.
  3. Next grate the onion, and peel and thickly slice the garlic.
  4. Place your paella pan onto the stove, add a generous amount of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, scrape the onion in, and sprinkle in a pinch of salt. Cook for a few minutes.
  5. After a few minutes of cooking the onion, add in the grated tomato, and another pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for approximately 20-40 minutes, adding the garlic in halfway through and stirring intermittently. You do not want to brown the sofrito. Rather to reduce and sweeten it. So if you see the sofrito beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan or burning at all, add in small amount of water and scrape off the browning. This will deglaze the pan and stop further browning from occurring.
  6. Halfway through cooking the sofrito, add in the garlic.
  7. While the sofrito is simmering, you can cook the mussels. The idea is to lightly simmer them in white wine and stock, until they have all opened. Once this happens set them aside and reserve the liquid. So to do this, place the live mussels and the smoked mussels from the can into a large pot. Pour in the ½   cup of white wine and 3 ½ cups stock, and place the lid onto the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer, and cook until all or most of the mussels have opened. This takes roughly 5 minutes. After turning off the heat, discard any mussels which have not opened. Remove the opened mussels from the pot and set them aside, strain the liquid and discard the canned smoked mussels pieces, reserving the liquid.
  8. While the mussels are cooking there is another step you can perform. And that is to toast the saffron. There are a number of ways you can do this, but one of the safest ways is to take the saffron filaments and fold them into a small piece of aluminium foil. Then place your little “packet” into a hot skillet or saucepan. Remove after approximately 1 minute, and check the inside. The saffron should be slightly brittle to the touch. This means it is ready to be crushed.
  9. Place the toasted saffron into a mortar and pestle and grind it up into a powder. If you do not have a mortar and pestle you can use the back of a spoon and a saucer.
  10. Combine the saffron with the broth by stirring it into the pot in which you cooked the mussels At the same time, salt the broth. You should use approximately 2 teaspoons of salt, and taste it. It should taste well salted. The saffron and salted broth should then infuse together until the sofrito is done.
  11. Once the sofrito has finished cooking in the paella pan it is time to bring in the rice. Add the dry rice to the sofrito as well as the oil from the tin of smoked mussels, and with a spoon or spatula mix to combine.
  12. Now add in 3 ¾ cups of your broth into the paella pan (reserving ¼ cup in case the pan needs a little extra later on) and the chilli flakes. Turn the heat up to high and evenly disperse the rice over the bottom of the pan. Allow the pan to simmer briskly for approximately 10 minutes. After which, turn down the heat to a medium low and cook gently for another 8-10 minutes. If you find that the rice on top is not cooking as fast as the rice at the bottom of the pan, you can place a lid over the pan towards the end to help the rice cook evenly.
  13. At this point, the rice should start to crispen on the bottom of the pan. To encourage even crispening, try to move the pan around on the flame, to ensure that all areas get enough of the heat to form a crispened layer. This is what is termed socarrat in Spanish, and it is the most sought after part of a good paella. You can also check to make certain that socarrat is forming by inserting a spoon into the rice layer and feeling to see if there is any stiffness to the bottom layer of rice. If there is, this means that socarrat is forming and you are almost ready to serve. Do not overdo this part either, as you just want the bottom layer of rice crispened, not burnt.
  14. Now taste the rice. It should be perfectly cooked, not soggy and also not hard. If this is the case turn off the heat, and arrange the mussels you cooked earlier on the top.
  15. Lastly, place a cover on top of the paella pan, and allow the dish to rest for about 5 minutes.
  16. When you are ready to serve, cut the lemons into wedges, place around the edge of the paella in the pan. Chop up a handful of fresh parsley, sprinkle over the top, and serve!