Quinoa “paella” (Chicken and Chorizo)

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Basics needed:

QUINOA
How to peel a pepper

Paella is a well-known Spanish dish, and the most famous version is made with rice, chicken and seafood, and peppers, with the addition of a good of pinch of saffron that gives the dish its distinctive yellow colour.

Personally I am not a big fan of putting meat and fish in the same dish (with some exception, but chicken and seafood definitely falls into the main rule), and I’d rather make my paella with either chicken OR seafood.
Looking for ideas for a chicken paella I came across a version with chorizo, which is an ingredient I particularly like. Since I tend to use quinoa as a substitute for rice due to its higher nutritional value, I decided to make a quinoa paella.
In this recipe I use chorizo sausage, which is more suitable for cooking; however, if you cannot find it, dried chorizo can be used instead.
I also use chicken thigh fillets as it is my favourite part, and, for a finer result, I peel the peppers before cooking them

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
360 g white quinoa
200 g Chorizo sausage
3 small chicken thighs fillets, without skin
2 red bell peppers
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
1 pinch of saffron
Salt
Parsley, finely chopped.
Flour, or corn starch to coat the meat
1 l vegetable stock (optional)

This is the process:

  1. Sear the peppers on an open flame, and place them in a bag; once cold, peel them, then remove the seeds and the white membranes inside
  2. Cut the chicken in small pieces and coat it with flour. NOTE: if you want a gluten-free dish, use corn starch instead
  3. Cut the chorizo in small pieces and dry-fry it in a large pan or skillet, trying not to make it crispy
  4. When the chorizo is done, remove it from the pan and set aside. The sausage will have released some of its fat; add some olive oil if need and cook the chicken until brown on all sides; set aside
  5. Still in the same skillet, on a very low heat, sweat the onions for five minutes
  6. In the meantime, roughly chop the peppers, and when the onion is soft, add to the pan and cook for another five minutes
  7. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, making sure it doesn’t get brown
  8. Dice the tomatoes and add them to the other ingredients
  9. Rinse the quinoa and add it to the pan, and cover with the stock, if using, or boiling water if not
  10. Add the smoked paprika and simmer until almost all the water has been absorbed
  11. At the end, add the saffron and cook until all the water has been absorbed
  12. Sprinkle with parsley before serving

Roast Peppers

Peppers are amongst the tastiest vegetables

Follow this simple process to get rid of the skin, and you will have a fantastic taste and texture and they will be easier to digest too. Please note that these guidelines are for red peppers, which are the sweetest and easiest to peel. For yellow and even more for green peppers, you will need to increase the cooking time.

Preheat the oven at 220C

First, I suggest that you trim them before cooking, otherwise they will get sticky and it will be difficult to remove all the seeds: make a circular cut around the stalk and remove it (most of the seeds will come out as well), and remove also the white membranes inside.

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Cut them in half lengthwise and rinse thoroughly, and place them in a baking tray lined with parchment. See below the picture showing the two halves and all the parts that should be discarded:

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Put the peppers in the oven for 45 minutes, checking them very 15 minutes and turning them every 15 minutes to allow even cooking.

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They are ready when they are soft and the skin blisters. It’s also a good sign if they start turning black, it will give a nice smoky aroma.

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Take out of the oven, and now a very important moment: when still piping hot, the peppers need to be placed in an AIRTIGHT container to cool down. What happens is that the steam that generates inside makes the skin separate completely from the flesh.

TIP: A plastic container can be used, but then it will smell of peppers forever, especially if you don’t have a dishwasher. I suggest that you use cook-in bags for this task.

When they are cool they can be peeled very easily (see video below) and eaten as they are (in a salad for example) or used for other preparations.