Daring Cook August Challenge – Paella, paella!

My take on Daring Cook August Challenge – Calamari and Fennel Paella

Calamari and Fennel Paella

I have a thing for Paella. I just love it. Long before this challenge, this chicken and artichoke paella has been frequently served in our family (provided that fresh artichokes are around, of course). And I can tell you one thing; this month challenge recipe is a perfect winner as well! This dish will be our home favorite from now on.

Fussy I may be, but I care for my paella. Home-made fish stock is a must and fresh ingredients are important. Equally important is the right type of rice. I normally opt for Calasparra, which has smaller grains and perfect absorption ability. Calasparra is quite expensive in Australia, and you can get it from The Essential Ingredients.

The original recipe is Squid, Artichoke and Mushroom Paella. Artichokes are still absent from my local market but fennels are still abundant. Naturally, I have used fennel here and it´s absolutely beautiful.

Now it´s the time for confession. I have been absent minded lately (blaming it on work!), so I do not gather enough time and ingredients to make allioli. So, learning from almost all TV chefs that I know, I cheat! I simply mix crushed garlic with ready-made mayonnaise. Flavor-wise, it´s nice but the home-made version must be better for sure.

Read on for the recipe. I´ve changed the method of cooking here or there to suit what I have on hand and my taste.

It´s Friday night here in Australia and my brain is fried after a week of work. I am looking towards the weekend. AND I do not want to hear anything related to Bloomberg for at least the weekend!

Calamari and Fennel Paella

Calamari and Fennel Paella

Adapted from a José Andrés´s recipe. Serve 2-3 as main course.

Sofregit (tomato and capsicum sauce) – Prepare this first
2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Bay leaf
A touch of cumin and dried oregano

Put everything in a saucepan, heat and stir. Cook for 1 hour in low heat, stir occasionally until you get a saucy mixture. Set aside (this may be more than what you need for this recipe).

Ingredients for the paella

2 small calamari, cleaned and cut into strips
1 fennel, remove and reserve the top. Cut the fennel head to strips
A bit of verjuice
Sofregit, a few tablespoons from above (substitute with a good quality tomato puree if you have to)
1 cup Calasparra rice
3 cup of fish stock (Simmer fish head and bones with bay leaf, thyme, few peppercorns for as long as possible. Reduce to 3 cups).
Saffron thread (or a pinch of turmeric powder)
Salt to taste

Cheated Allioli: crush 1 garlic clove and mix with ¼ cup mayonnaise (the full-fat good quality variety!).


Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan. Add fennel and sauté until the fennel has nice golden color.

Add a touch of verjuice, then 1-2 tbps of sofregit, mix well.

Add all the fish stock. Bring to the boil. Add the rice and let boil for 5 mins in heavy heat. Next, add some saffron thread (or turmeric powder). Turn to low heat and boil gently for 8 mins or until the rice is done. Taste and adjust seasoning. The rice should be softer than `al dente´ but sill has some bite.

Let the rice stand for a few mins. Serve with the allioli, topped with fennel top.

30 Responses to Daring Cook August Challenge – Paella, paella!

  1. bake in paris says:

    Classic touch! Love the photography so much, rice turned out fabulous too!

  2. Karen says:

    I love my paella too so was very happy with a Spanish challenge for August. Umm fennel… beautiful photos!

  3. zorra says:

    Great idea to use fennel! Love your version!

  4. Anula says:

    You did a great job – especially wit the fennel 😉 I also liked this month's challenge! Cheers :)

  5. MeetaK says:

    gorgeous gorgeous looking shots. it looks sultry and i just love the tones!

  6. Justin says:

    i really like these photos too… your dark and moody style is different from what you see in most food blogs

  7. veron says:

    Oh, I simply love paella and squid! I gotta try this.

  8. Lisa Michelle says:

    All that fennel being available and abundant worked out perfectly, as using it in this dish sounds perfect! It turned out beautiful too – nicely done!

  9. pigpigscorner says:

    Love the addition of fennel. Great pictures!

  10. Lauren says:

    Wow. Beautiful dish, love the sound of fennel added in =D. Absolutely gorgeous photos!!

  11. Ravenous Couple says:

    this is unlike any paella we've ever had before…sounds fantastic!

  12. Deeba @Passionate About Baking says:

    Just awesome. A beautiful dish with stunning pictures…wow! So much character! Love them!!

  13. jenncuisine.com says:

    Ooooh fennel! What a great idea!

  14. Dhanggit says:

    Love love this version of fennel paella!! and delicious photos as usal..perfect to the last bite i mean last look :-)

  15. bittersweetblog says:

    I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I've never made paella before… But all of these Daring Cooks posts are making me want to change all of that! It definitely sounds delicious.

  16. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    It looks so good! Yummy!

  17. Faye says:

    Beautiful pictures! Looks great.

  18. Simon says:

    I really liked the way you composed the shots but dunno about the choice of colour. Moody, yes, but appetising…?

  19. Pam says:

    I love the pictures!

  20. Audax says:

    What a great photo and it seems that the dish turned out well. Will have to get some of that rice here in Sydney I just live down the road from essential ingredients. Wonderful effort and kudos to you. Cheers from Audax in Sydney. Fennel is the best choice it is in season at the moment I saw it but didn't use it!!!

  21. shaz says:

    Great Job! Sounds fantastic – I love paella too.

  22. Anh says:

    Thanks all for enjoying this post!

  23. Johanna says:

    I cooked with fennel and rice last night – it was superb so I am excited to see this – and curious about the aioli on top

  24. Claire says:

    I loved the challenge too. Your version with fennel sounds nice too.

  25. Valérie says:

    What dramatic pictures! I love it!

  26. Anita says:

    Looks like a great recipe and choice for the daring cooks challenge. Love the photos.

  27. lisa says:

    I love paella, but I've never tried Calasparra. I'll have to look for it next time. This dish sounds great with the fennel!

  28. Isabelle says:

    Awesome! Wonderful photos and I really love your version with fennel!

  29. Rose says:

    Very nice – I love fennel! Beautifully photographed.

  30. Snooky doodle says:

    yummy I love Paella :)

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