“Paella is an incredible Spanish dish and this is my Southend twist on it. I’m riffing off local produce, plus adding a handful of non-traditional ingredients to max out a little more flavour. It may not be authentic, but it’s brilliant fun to make and fantastic for sharing. Trust me, you’re going to want to get in on this one! ”
Blister the peppers on a gas hob (or under the grill), turning with tongs, until blackened all over. Place in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and let them steam.
Soak the saffron in 1 litre of boiling water to release the aromas.
Cut the chicken thighs in half to make 8 pieces. Place a large paella pan (45cm) on a medium heat, add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes, turning until golden all over, then push to one side of the pan.
Chop the chorizo into little nuggets and cook in the chicken fat for 5 minutes. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, add to the pan and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes, until softened.
Pour the hot chicken stock into the pan and let it simmer away on a medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced right down.
Meanwhile, prep your seafood. Pull the heads off the prawns, give them a rinse and reserve. Remove the prawn shells, leaving the tails on. Devein by running the knife down the back and removing the intestinal tract. Slice the squid into rings, leaving the tentacles intact. Scrub and debeard the cockles and mussels.
Roughly chop the tomatoes, then add to the paella pan along with the saffron water and prawn heads. Bring to the boil, then stir in the paella rice and the rosemary sprigs (if using). Cook on a medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes (removing the rosemary after 3 minutes), then reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 10 to 20 minutes, until the rice is tender and the liquid has cooked away.
Meanwhile, peel the peppers and cut into strips. Place in a bowl and dress with 1 tablespoon of oil, then squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon and season with a pinch of black pepper. Add the prepped seafood and toss to combine.
Finely slice the baby courgettes, reserving any flowers for later, and scatter over the paella with the peas, broad beans and peppers.
Push the cockles and mussels into the rice, then scatter over the prawns and squid, cover and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes, or until the shellfish have opened and the prawns are pink. Remove from the heat and let it rest, covered, for 5 minutes.
Pick and roughly chop the parsley and courgette flowers (if using), scatter over the paella, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Cut the remaining lemon into wedges for squeezing over, then bring to the table and tuck in.