• Paella Valenciana (China Squirrel)Source: China Squirrel

Paella is a one-pan wonder. Its trademark soccarat - that crunchy layer of rice at the base of the pan - infuses the saffron rice with a caramelised flavour.






Skill level

Average: 1.9 (105 votes)

This paella is the signature dish at Bar Lourinhã. Fresh seafood is what it's all about. Rabbit is also a traditional component - it's quite a sweet meat, making it a great match for salty seafood. I prefer the flavour of the leg meat; if you're lucky enough to get hold of a whole rabbit, add in the livers and kidneys. I use cuttlefish rather than calamari as it's slightly thicker, which lends itself to the longer cooking time. What's not traditional about this paella is that the rice goes in first (before the stock) - I find it helps with absorption and you get a nice nuttiness that comes through. 

When the time comes to adding the seafood, layer it so that the things with a longer cooking time are at the bottom and those at the top will cook with residual heat and steam. It looks like a lot of seafood in the pan, but don't pare back because as it cooks and releases its juices, it contributes to building the flavour of the paella.

The trick to the soccarat is timing and having your stock to rice ratio correct so that there is enough stock left in the pan to caramelise the base. It's also important to manage the heat correctly - crank it up to full when the time comes. 

It's important to have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go into the pan. 


  • olive oil, for cooking
  • 2 rabbit legs, cut in to 6 pieces
  • 200 g pork neck, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp saffron threads, toasted and crushed
  • 300 g Bomba rice (see Note)
  • 18 king prawns, shell and head on
  • 18 mussels, debearded
  • cuttlefish, cleaned and cut into 3 cm strips
  • 18 clams
  • 1 small red capsicum, roughly diced
  • ½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • lemons wedges, to serve

Chicken stock

  • 2 kg chicken bones, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 carrots (unpeeled), roughly chopped
  • 2 brown onions (unpeeled), roughly chopped
  • 4 celery sticks, roughly chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • Thyme and/or parsley stalks
  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Prepare all the ingredients prior to cooking.

To make the chicken stock, put the chicken bones in a large pot and cover with 5 litres of water. Add the salt and bring to the boil. When the stock comes to the boil turn off and skim the foam, goat and impurities that have come to the top.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring back to the boil then simmer for 4 hrs, skimming from time to time. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer and cool in a fridge - ice blocks can be added to decrease cooling time.

Heat the oil in a 40-50 cm paella pan over medium heat, add the rabbit and brown.

Add the garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper and paprika and increase the heat to high.

Add the rice and saffron, mix well and cook for 5 minutes.

Arrange the prawns, mussels, cuttlefish and then the clams on top of the rice and press into the liquid. Top with the capsicum.

Pour over the stock and cook for about 15–20 minutes over medium heat until the rice is cooked and the pan is beginning to dry out.

At this stage, increase the heat to high for a few minutes so the rice begins to toast and crisp underneath to form a crust.

Remove from the heat, place a damp cloth over the pan and steam for 5 minutes.

Serve with parsley scattered over and lemon wedges.


Chef’s note

• Bomba rice is a short-grain rice, available from Spanish grocers, select butchers and delicatessens.


Photography, styling and food preparation by China Squirrel


Matt McConnell is the head chef at Bar Lourinhã. This recipe is from The Chefs' Line - a brand new series airing weeknights at 6pm on SBS. Can the passion of a home cook beat the skills of a professional chef? Missed all the action? Catch-up online and get all the recipes #TheChefsLine.

This recipe has been edited by SBS Food and may differ slightly from the series.