History and Origins of Paella
Paella is one of the most popular and famous of global dishes, to define exactly what paella contains is almost impossible. There are as many variations of paella as there are cooks, with many claiming that their recipe is the best tasting or most authentic. The origins of the dish, however, are quite humble. Understanding a little of its history will help explain why so many varieties exist.
Valencia in Eastern Spain is the undisputed home of paella. It is one of the largest natural ports in the Mediterranean and has been one of the most important rice-producing areas in Spain since rice was introduced by the Moors over 1200 years ago. In fact, the Spanish word for rice is arroz, which is derived from Arabic, not Latin like most of Castilian Spanish.
Paella was originally farmers' and farm labourers food, cooked by the workers over a wood fire for the lunchtime meal. It was made with rice, plus whatever was to hand around the rice fields and countryside: tomatoes, onions and snails, with a few beans added for flavour and texture. Rabbit or duck might also have been added, and for special occasions, chicken plus a touch of saffron for an extra special colour and flavour. Paella was also traditionally eaten straight from the pan in which it was cooked with each person using his own wooden spoon.
Little by little, as 'Valencian rice' became more widely available, paella recipes were adapted with new variations appearing. With Valencia being on the coast, it is no surprise that various types of seafood crept into the recipes over the generations. Now paella is the generic name of 200 or so distinctive rice dishes or arroces from the Valencia region let alone other parts of Spain and the rest of the world. To this day a "true" Paella Valenciana has no seafood but a mixture of Chicken, rabbit and snails with green and white beans.
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Our Paella recipe:
- * Olive oil & butter
- * Pork belly, skin removed & cut into pieces
- *Chicken thighs, boned & skinned, cut into pieces
- * Green peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
- * Red peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
- * Garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- * Spanish onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- * Flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped, stalks finely chopped
- * Sea salt
- * Freshly ground black pepper
- * Carmencita paella seasoning
- * Clams or mussels, scrubbed clean and debearded
- * Paella rice
- * Jarred red peppers
- * Chopped tomatoes
- * Chicken or vegetable stock
- * Large prawns
- * Squid cleaned and finely sliced
- * Green beans, sliced very thinly at an angle
- * Lemons, cut into wedges
Heat the paella pan over a medium heat and add a generous glug of olive oil & butter, add the pork belly and fry for around 15 minutes until golden and crispy. Then add the chicken thighs and fry for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. As soon as it starts taking on colour and the fat is beginning to cook out of it, add the chopped peppers, garlic, onions and parsley stalks along with a good pinch of salt and pepper and the paella seasoning. Fry gently for another 15/20 minutes, or until the vegetables have begun to soften.
Add the rice and jarred peppers and keep stirring for a few minutes until the rice is coated in all the lovely flavours, then pour in the tinned tomatoes and the stock, seasoning again with salt and pepper. Bring everything to the boil, then turn down to a medium to low heat and stir constantly for about 30 minutes. This combination of flavours will be absolutely beautiful, but you've got to help the dish along by doing your job and making sure each grain of rice gets the same amount of love. So every now and then, stir from the outside of the pan into the middle so you get a sort of pile of rice in the centre, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Flatten the pile out with your spoon, then start the whole process again.
After around 20/30 minutes the rice should be cooked, but still have a bit of a bite, so add the mussels and the shell on prawns. You may want to add an extra splash of stock here if the rice looks a bit dry. Keep stirring, and as the clams and mussels start to open and the prawns begin to turn pink, add your green beans and cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Then add the other mixed seafood and cook for a final 5 minutes or so. Stir in the chopped parsley leaves and the lovely lemon juice and bring to the table with the remaining lemon wedges on the side and a crisp green salad.
and cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Then add the other mixed seafood and cook for a final 5 minutes or so. Stir in the chopped parsley leaves and the lovely lemon juice and bring to the table with the remaining lemon wedges on the side and a crisp green salad.