Paella: a traditional Spanish Meal That Became Worldwide Famous
We could write a thousand-page book about Spanish gastronomy and still we would not be able to cover everything it has to offer. But we should start somewhere, right? So, today we are starting with a meal that includes an ingredient that is well-known to all of us: rice. Having a strong presence in coastal dishes, rice is the starting point to make Paella, an emblematic Valencian meal which has become an icon of Spanish culture and came to be cooked all over the world.
Spanish cuisine: Everything you can think of and more
If we were asked to pick only one word to describe Spanish cuisine, that would certainly be “varied”. Spanish meals are inspired by the countries that either colonized or were colonized by Spain. Spanish cuisine has adopted a myriad of techniques and ingredients from each and every one of these countries.
Spanish gastronomy tends to favor the selection of ingredients over preparation. This means that the highlight of a dish would be, for instance, a fish from a particular beach, a ham from a particular village, etc. The reason for this is that climatic conditions change a lot between different cities and seasons, which makes ingredients from one place different from others. Therefore, you will find that many dishes bear the name of the place where the ingredients come from.
Never underestimate the versatility of rice!
One ingredient that is present in many Spanish recipes but which may not be the center of attention like those we mentioned is rice. Remember we talked about colonization? Rice was taken to Spain by the Muslims in the Andalusian period, which started in the 8th century. As a result of this Arabic influence, rice started to be cultivated massively in Spain and has now become essential for many dishes, especially those from the Valencia region. Within this group, we can find paella de marisco, which has become a popular staple throughout the country.
The Paella may have made its first appearance in history in the 16th century under another name. However, the moment which is usually associated with its origins is the 18th century, when it was the usual lunch for farmworkers. It originally included rabbit and chicken, but, as it became a country-wide staple, different vegetables, meat and even seafood (marisco) were often used in the recipes. Other ingredients of the original recipe are water, olive oil, lima beans, short grain rice, saffron, salt, tomato and ferraúra, a sort of green beans that can be found in Valencia. It is cooked using a circular pan, which is actually why it is called paella, which means pan in Valencian. This recipe then became known in big cities like New York and London and, with time, more variations started to emerge. Below, you will find a recipe which is slightly different from the original and is now the most popular one.
Seafood Paella (8 servings)
- 2 fresh squid.
- 1¼ (40 ml) olive oil.
- 2 garlic cloves.
- 3 tomatoes.
- 2 green onions.
- 1 p salt.
- 1 p pepper.
- 1.1 lb (500) g long grain rice.
- 1 tsp saffron.
- 1 tsp paprika.
- 1 qt (1 l) vegetable broth.
- 8 oz (250 g) skinless prawns.
- 5 oz (150 g) of mussels with their shells.
- 6¾ (200 g) of previously cooked peas.
Preparation (60 minutes)
- Clean the squid by removing the skin, head and inner feather. Cut into rings and separate the tentacles. Set aside, keep it cold.
- In a paella pan with very hot oil, fry the crushed garlic and the skinless tomatoes cut into cubes; add the white part of the green onions cut into julienne strips (reserve the green part). Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the squid, let them cook with the sauté for 5 minutes, add the rice, the saffron, paprika, and stir until well mixed with the seasoning.
- Add the vegetable broth all at once and let it cook for about 30 minutes, without stirring. If necessary, add more broth.
- When there are 5 minutes left to complete the cooking of the rice, add the prawns, mussels, and peas. Now you are free to decorate your dish and make it look delicious!
- Once cooked, turn off the heat and finish garnishing with the green part of the green onion cut in fine julienne strips.