Spanish Seafood Paella

When you think about Spain and its gastronomy, for sure the most popular dish pops up in your head: the Paella. Not only is it known worldwide, but it’s a real culinary icon.

Many of you have tried it, whereas others might find it too typical or made “just” for tourists- indeed, there can be a huge difference in quality. So don’t fall for the restaurants where you don’t see locals eating, but share authentic, traditional and absolutely mouth-watering seafood Paella … made with lots of love, seasonal ingredients and the best local produce. (Re-) Discover this delicious culinary evergreen!!

The origin of the paella, like all dishes of the popular cuisine of an area, is found in the combination of elements and ingredients that people could gather in their surroundings. So the region where this famous rice dish traditionally comes from (although eaten nowadays throughout all Spain) is Valencia, in the Mediterranean east coast of Spain.

A countryside full of rich vegetable gardens, saltwater lagoons (“albuferas”) and with access to the coastline.

This explains why the most popular Paella is the one with Fish and Seafood, since on the coast these are the freshest and best ingredients you can find.

Nevertheless, in the interior of this zone, vegetables grow abundantly and are incorporated in “this paella version”, along with the usual raising of chickens and rabbits. Actually it is to be said that the “original” Paella was prepared with eel, snails and green beans and was already a special treat back in the 18thcentury. So as you can imagine, there are plenty of recipes, all authentic and true to their heritage.

Moreover, the proximity of the “albuferas” and marshlands (which are very characteristic landscapes), made the existence of rice fields possible and set like this the perfect conditions for the creation of this dish (there are not many zones where you can cultivate rice). So as you can imagine, the rice, which the Arabs introduced in Europe 800AD, is the key to good Paella. Like with sushi, it needs to have the perfect consistency in order to reveal its best flavor and texture. It might seem basic, but it is the pillar everything builds up on.

The name “Paella” actually doesn’t refer to the food itself, but to the pan it is cooked in!

But there are more authentic and special elements like the “garrofón” or lima/butter bean, apart from spices like bay leaf, thyme, rosemary or saffron. But basically, you can add anything you want to paella: artichokes, green beans, any type of meat, fish, Serrano ham, ñoras, vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms etc.

Another curiosity is that the name “Paella” actually doesn’t refer to the food itself, but to the pan it is cooked in! So is the fact that in the past it was the typical dish men prepared by themselves for family festivals or bigger events, a tradition that in many cases still prevails.

And a last insider tip: the most tasty part of the paella is the crunchy one, stuck to the pan- the best way to get it when you are in company, is to elegantly dissimulate and then to scratch is off with a wooden spatula and simply enjoy!

This and much more you can enjoy in our Paella Cooking Workshop.


Originally published at spainfoodsherpas.com on February 18, 2015.