Valencia, Spain is famous for two things: beautiful, sunny beaches and paella. Any travelling, food lover would agree that this dish is a savory treat for the taste buds. At times it is hard to select just one with so many different varieties available, but to truly experience Spanish culture, we recommend trying the seafood version.
Where paella comes from
Paella originates from rural communities in the region of Valencia. The farmers combined their produce in one delicious dish that is easy to prepare and cook. All the ingredients are traditional to this region, which is still true today. Paella is a very healthy dish because the products are simple, natural, and nutritious. All the ingredients combine to create a healthy and delicious recipe, just like the Mediterranean diet. People still crave and enjoy a good plate of paella despite it being around for many years.
Fun fact for those of you interested in languages, the word paella means frying pan in Valenciano, a dialect like Spanish. This is important to remember because you cannot use just any frying pan to cook paella! There is a specific paella pan, paellera, that is wide and shallow. This is used to cook all the rice evenly.
Why paella is so popular
A common misconception about paella is that it is eaten all the time in Spain. Paella is so much more than food. It is a culture, a way of life, and a time to share experiences with family and friends. For these reasons, it is ordinarily prepared for big celebrations. This plate is enjoyed by the company of family members and friends for birthdays or vacations at the beach in a nice beach bar or chiringuito. But our favorite way to enjoy paella is with freshly made sangria in hand while sitting in our garden surrounded by family. It tastes so fresh and is best enjoyed with great conversation! We highly recommend that you enjoy every bite because the flavors taste better fresh and not as left-overs.
How to do a paella: 10 tips for a perfect paella
Here are Chef Jaime’s 10 tips and tricks for making a perfect paella:
The rice is the main star of the show
And it is important to have the correct consistency. The first trick is to use bomba or DO calasparra rice. This is because it absorbs all the flavors from the ingredients and does not stick together like a paste.
Use homemade broth instead of water
This will give more flavor and intensity to your dish. To make the rice flavorful it is crucial to use a good base, like fish broth. This will enrich the rice to accompany the seafood paella.
Incorporate high quality, natural and non-processed seasonings
For additional flavors we suggest using extra virgin olive oil, purple garlic from Las Pedroñeras, ñora paste, smoked paprika from La Vera, and saffron from La Mancha. These seasonings are versatile and can be used for seafood, chicken, or vegetable paella.
Use green pepper, garlic, and tomato for a classic sauce
According to some areas you can use red pepper but others consider it a sin! Everyone agrees that you cannot put onion or leek into the rice because they make it soft and heavy. The sauce is cooked over high flame until it is almost like a paste.
Add ñora pulp to the sauce
Ñora is a type of dried pepper with a round shape that is typically used in stews, rice, and fish recipes. Most importantly, the pulp is fleshy and not spicey. Do not forget to remove the seeds!
Use the right pan: the paella pan
The paellera is made with good quality iron because it must withstand extreme heat without bending from the flame. The oval shape is important because it allows the rice to cook evenly. Without it, the rice would go to the middle and the other ingredients would be poorly distributed as well. The circumference of the pan must be large enough so that the rice is only 1.5-2 cm thick. It should not be possible to place a spoon in it, as if it were risotto, because it overflows.
Be careful with the amount of water
Remember, paella is a dry rice. If it’s too mushy or raw it is not authentic paella. It’s difficult to measure the water to rice ratio because the broth is made in the paella itself. We recommend one measure of rice for three measures of liquid. But always add more liquid if there is more fire.
Use saffron from La Mancha
To achieve a yellow color, special taste, and aroma. Following the traditional recipe, you must toast, without burning, some strands of saffron (3 strands per paella portion). It is easy if you crush it and let it dissolve in the liquid so it can distribute equally. Or you can also add food coloring (“paella seasoning”).
Don’t stir the rice!
Once all the ingredients are added let the mixture sit. Make sure that everything is distributed and as flat as possible. Forget about the spoon after that because if you stir it anymore you will break the delicious layers of flavor from the broth and rice.
Keep an eye on the cooking time of the rice
It generally takes 20 minutes to cook and 5 minutes to cool down. Then enjoy!
The following is a tried and true recipe that guarantees great paella every time!
Ingredients for 4 people for seafood paella:
- 400gr of bomba or calasparra rice (the general rule is 100gr per person)
- 150 gr of prawns
- ½ kg of mussels
- 2 garlic cloves (preferably purple garlic from Las Pedroñeras)
- 1,2 liters of sea food broth (preferably homemade)
- 300 gr of monkfish
- 300 gr of squid
- 1 green pepper
- 1 tomato
- Smoked paprika “La Dalia”
- Saffron and/or paella seasoning
- Ñora pulp paste
There are many variations of paella (chicken, fish, or vegetables) but they all have a series similar of characteristics that you can see. This way there are different types of paella for everyone to enjoy.
If you have any doubts or questions, write to us and we will be happy to answer you!