Mattancherry, where cultures and cuisines meet in the most amazing way is known for its unique dishes like the classic biryani and seafood dishes. Hermann Grossbichler, the executive chef of Bolgatty Grand Hyatt, recently introduced seafood 'paella,' the iconic Spanish dish to the coasts of Mattancherry.
From choosing fresh seafood from Kalamukku Harbor to cooking the perfect paella, chef Hermann enjoyed the day as he came across some of the unique cultures of Mattancherry.
It was early in the morning that the chef reached Kalamukku Harbor to choose the fish for his seafood paella. He picked a giant swordfish saying that it would taste great if grilled. Not the shrimp grown in farms, the chef wanted fresh sea prawns for his paella. Lots of fresh calamari and mussels, too, made their way into the chef's basket.
These fish were then taken to the kitchen of Colony Restaurant in Bolgatty Grand Hyatt. While the prawns are cooked for at least half an hour in the neighbouring local kitchens at Mulavukadu and Thanthonnithuruth, chef Hermann insists that the prawns need just 2-3 minutes to cook perfectly.
There is apparently a saying in Europe that "kissing doesn't last, but cooking does." It took only a few minutes for the chef to clean the fish, prawns, calamari and the mussels. The head and tail of the prawns go into the fish stock which is a main ingredient in the paella. He worked with swift yet rhythmic movements saying that there is no time to waste.
For this recipe, When it comes to cleaning the fish, just the innards and scales are removed. The fish is stuffed with lots of cherry tomatoes, garlic, olives, basil, Italian parsley, fresh pepper corns and salt. This is then wrapped in aluminium foil and is baked in the oven for half an hour. This grilled fish is simple, but is loaded with nuanced and sophisticated flavours. Unlike the typical Indian cuisine the fish isn't marinated with loads of masala and spices.
Paella is a Spanish rice dish which is traditionally made with seafood, meats and a variety of vegetables as well. Rice, which is closer to the basmati rice, is cooked in the fish stock.
However, chef warns that the traditional par boiled rice of Kerala doesn't suit this dish. Tomatoes, garlic, paprika, black pepper, salt, prawns, mussels and calamari too are added in the paella. These are cooked in a pan and the rice is added into it. Three cups of water too are added into the pan. This dish develops the flavours as it slow cooks in the pan.
However, compared to cooking fish in Kerala, it isn't that slow. The dish needs to be taken off the flame before the rice is overcooked and gets stuck to the bottom of the pan. A pinch of saffron and some wine too are added to build the flavours. The sauce bubbles rapidly when the dish is almost done. Reduce the flame and allow it to boil for some more time. Finally, as a garnish you could add boiled quail eggs and some cooked prawns as well.