How to make a ‘real’ paella

People from the Spanish city regard dish as one of their most important cultural symbols

Authentic paella is made with seafood, though chicken and chorizo versions have become popular

Authentic paella is made with seafood, though chicken and chorizo versions have become popular

 

Of all the rice dishes, none is more misunderstood and contentious than paella. Internationally, it is considered one of Spain’s national dishes. Yet, within Spain, it is considered a regional dish from Valencia.

Valencians regard paella as one of their most important cultural symbols. True paella, according to the people of Valencia, needs to be cooked in an actual “paella” pan (paellera) over an open fire.

During festivals, Valencians cook huge paellas in the middle of the street. Originating with the Moors in the 10th century, paella emerged in its modern format in the 19th century as a rice dish with a very specific set of ingredients. This is not to say, you cannot make a chicken paella or even a chorizo paella.

However, for Valencians, these would not be paella but rather “arroz con cosas” (rice with things).

But trying to tell the people of Ireland the difference between an “arroz” and a “paella” dish has proved too difficult for me in Cava Bodega, so I went for the most common understanding of the word. Hopefully, the Valencians will forgive me.

Experiment

I love to experiment with the ingredients that I add to paella but seafood with chorizo is still my favourite.

To make the paella, place a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry a chopped onion, some garlic and diced red peppers in a little olive oil. Add 100g diced chorizo and deglaze the frying pan with 250ml of white wine. Add 350ml of fish stock and a pinch of saffron, bring to the boil.

Lower the heat and add in some mussels, clams, squid rings and prawns. When the shellfish opens, remove everything and set aside. Add in 250g of bomba rice (a short grain Spanish rice) and simmer until the rice is soft (30 mins).

When the rice is cooked add a handle of fresh peas and chopped parsley into the dish. Place all the reserved shellfish back into the paella, sticking them upright into the rice.

To serve: place the frying pan in the centre of the top of a wooden board. Finish with some lemon quarters.

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