Private Chef – Paella

Messa Ben sealing the rabbit and chicken thighs


Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a private chef? Well now you can…

Our Executive Chef, Messa Ben, has been busy cooking today for one of our Private Chef clients, and as my office opens onto the kitchen, I couldn’t help but go and see what he was creating as the aromas wafting through my door were too much to take. What a delight to see a beautiful paella for 10 people on the go, even on a typically drizzly English August day, it felt like summer had exploded into the cookery school.

As British folk, we most likely see Paella as Spain’s national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Paella has ancient roots and started out as a humble one pot lunch or supper, the original Valencian paella contained rice, green & white beans, rabbit or chicken, snails, saffron & rosemary. However, these days there are several types of paella, Valencian paella, seafood paella, mixed paella (meat & seafood) and fideua paella where the rice is substituted for pasta, this is great when you’re a little short on time.

One of the key ingredients in a paella is saffron. Saffron comes from the crocus satirus, commonly know as the saffron crocus. To get the most out of your saffron before cooking with it you can do one of two things, either steep in hot (not boiling water) water for several minutes, or as Messa Ben showed me his trick today, you can wrap the saffron threads into tin foil and pop the package onto the heat of the paella pan when you first start to seal the meat for just a minute on each side. Both ways help release the aromatic component.

1 gram of Spanish saffron


At the Brighton Cookery School we’ll happily create bespoke dishes for our private/personal chef customers, so after a scheduled call when confirming the booking, our customer requested paella and given the different options they decided to go with a mixed paella, this dish is easy to cook when you know how, so check out Messa Ben’s recipe below and get some sunshine into your kitchen, it might be the only sunshine you get for the rest of the summer!

Rabbit, Chicken & Mixed Seafood Paella

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1.5 hours
Serves: 10

1 rabbit jointed out
7 skinless free range chicken thighs
150g broad beans – removed from pod
150g runner beans – sliced 1 inch pieces
2 garlic cloves – finely chopped
1 large onion – diced
1 kg live mussels – beards removed and cleaned
1 kg Mediterranean prawns – tiger prawns can be used instead
1.5-2 litres of a good bone stock – we’ve used roasted poultry bones
1g saffron threads
2 tsp sweet pimentón (smoked hot Spanish paprika)
1/2 kg Spanish Paella rice (you can use an Indian short grain rice – Idli as an alternative, or risotto rice if you’re really struggling to find either)


In a hot paella pan (a large heavy bottomed saucepan will do as an alternative) brown the rabbit on each side, when you turn the rabbit onto the second side add the free range chicken thighs and brown these on each side.

With the heat still high, pour in some of your stock until the meat is just covered, keep the heat high for 15 minutes and then turn down to a low to medium heat and braise until the stock has reduced, when you turn the heat down add your paprika, cooking time approximately 45mins-1 hour.

Once the liquid has reduced add the onions and garlic until softened, and then add both beans. Now add the paella rice, and saffron threads. Using the handles of your pan, shake the contents until it levels out. It’s important not to disturb the paella too much, unlike a risotto, you want to leave it alone as much as possible to work its magic. Top up with the stock until the rice is just covered, when half this liquid is reduced place a cartouche over the top of paella and gently press down. (A cartouche is a circle of greaseproof parchment used to cover a dish while poaching or simmering.) Continue to cook gently until all the liquid is incorporated.

Cartouche covering the Paella

At this stage the rice will be nearly done, so now add your mussels & prawns. It’s always a win with dinner guests to arrange the mussels and prawns evenly around the pan in a symmetrical pattern, to enhance the look of the finished dish. Cover again with the cartouche and cook for 5-6 mins, you’ll want the mussels to have all opened up and the prawns to be a beautiful pink. If you have any mussels that don’t open, discard these from the dish, these aren’t for eating!

Sprinkle the finished dish with fresh herbs, parsley always compliments, but you could try adding rosemary too like the Valencian’s, it’s their dish after all. Then garnish with a few lemon wedges and serve straight from the pan. Now summer’s at your table!

If you like the sound of having a private chef cook for your family as a regular or one off booking, get in touch and tell us what you’d like cooking up, all dietary requirements catered for. Or if you’re having a dinner party and want to enjoy it too(!), then book one or more of our Private Chef’s to bring the restaurant to you. Our team will take of the washing up and leave your kitchen spotless, so you can sit back and enjoy the rest of your party.

For menus, availability and enquiries you can email us at, call us on 01273 674911 or pop in to have a chat and coffee with us, we’re HERE

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