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All About Paella

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Paella is a wonderful tasting meal in a pan

In all countries touched by Spain during history the is a variety of Paella.  The Cubans make a lovely paella.

Paella is a fun meal to serve to family and friendsPaella is very easy to make. You should use a paella pan, but a wok or kadai would even work I guess.  A paella pan is a large round shallow pan that allows the rice to cook properly and evenly with an abundance of seafood, chicken, sausages, peppers, and peas.  However, there are as many style of paella as the imagination of cooks!  I have eaten rabbit, duck, wild boar as well as a plethora of shellfish in paella, and all have been wonderful.

Bomba Rice D.O in Textile Bag - RC003

The key to a good paella is using bomba rice, a short grain Spanish rice that absorbs 3 times the normal amount of liquid.  The other key is use saffran-REAL saffran.


I use smoked Spanish paprika that gives a rich smokey flavour to the paella.


Crocus sativus: Group of saffron plants

Group of saffron plants



Crocus sativus: Saffron threads after harvest

Saffron threads after harvest


Approximately 150000 flowers are needed for one kilogram of dried saffron; typically, one would need 2000 m2 field area per kg harvest. Less expensive qualities include also the yellow stamina (male sexual organ), which do not have any taste of their own.

Adding lobster makes for a Rolls Royce Paella

When preparing a paella the  "sofrito" or base of the recipe consists of  onion,   garlic, saffron threads and some sweet paprika.  You gently fry the onion in  olive oil until soft and add the garlic. Cook for a couple more minutes (don't let the garlic burn!) and then add Paella rice (Bomba) allowing about 60 grams per person. Coat the rice with the oil, add the saffron and paprika and enough hot chicken stock to cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes. I cover the pan with some foil towards the end of the cooking period (the Spanish use newspaper after the heat has been turned off).

To this basic recipe I add chicken on the bone (that has been browned in oil) at the point when the rice goes in. Fish and shell fish are added at later stages. Garnish with strips of roasted or fried red pepper.

In this paella which is a typical valencian paella (chicken, rabbit, vegetables and snails) 

Traditonal Spanish paella made for the village


I use Spanish smoked paprika.  Sometimes I add fres or frozen peas for colour and exture.


Here are some tips:

 1) The rice that they use in Spain is far superior -  the great Valencian short-grain rice, Bomba, creates a stellar, chewy texture. The stuff in American restaurants quickly turns to mush.  Don't use long grain rice ever to make a paella.

2) The rice in American pot paellas is usually wet, soupy--not the way it’s ‘sposed to be! A true paella isn’t exactly dry, either--it’s not a fluffy pilaf--but the rice, every grain separate, has a kind of oily film that’s very seductive in the mouth.

3) The proteins....oy! In American restaurants, as is typically American, the focus is on those proteins. “The diners get very upset,”  “if the pot isn’t stuffed with seafood.” The fact that this takes focus away from the rice--like too much meat in a cassoulet takes focus away from the beans--is only part of the problem.

Colourful paella in Arles

 Another part is the seafood itself, or the chicken......the former perennially overcooked and mushy, the latter perennially overcooked and dry. Why bother? In Spain, less is more: you get fewer pieces of proteins, but they are properly cooked and delicious. And they let the rice be the star.

Paella Festival hosted in El Tablero de Maspalomas where everybody from the village, and outside of the village, was invited to enjoy such a wonderful event. Really nice and very tasty ! This is the view of the paella in its full 'glamour'

Don't eat shellfish?  Try a Paella de boquerones y espinacas (tiny smelt fish)

Paella in Vaslencia

4) In fact, they lend their glory to the rice--for in a perfectly cooked Spanish paella, the rice has absorbed the juices of the proteins, emboldening the flavor of the rice. When you get a seafood paella in Valencia--the rice is proud, oily, bursting with crustacean/mollusk flavor. The nature of Bomba facilitates this.....because it opens out when you cook it, absorbing the flavorful liquid around it.

Paella is very popular in the South of France.  Here in the city of Arles on the day of the bullfights you will find paella everywhere.

5) If you’re in Spain, and the gods are smiling, you may have a chance to taste a traditionally cooked paella--which is to say, in a wide, open, uncovered pan, cooked over a smoky wood fire. The smoky flavor that creeps into the dish is paella’s crowning glory.


Vegan Paella!

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Taken in a place with no name (See more photos here)

Inspired by "the Minimalist" (Mark Bittman). Definitely something to try , especially if you can get some farm fresh tomatoes. And as is, the recipe is vegan as well!

 Paella With Tomatoes

Time: 30 minutes

3 1/2 cups stock or water

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into thick wedges

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Large pinch saffron threads (optional)

2 teaspoons Spanish pimentón (smoked paprika), or other paprika

2 cups Spanish or other short-grain rice

Minced parsley for garnish.

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Warm stock or water in a saucepan. Put tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat.

2. Put remaining oil in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, saffron if you are using it, and paprika and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another minute or two. Add liquid and stir until just combined.

3. Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Put pan in oven and roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, return pan to oven for another 5 minutes. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water (or wine). When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 minutes.

4. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle with parsley. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings. 

         So....what can you do about it, short of booking your flight on Iberia? Make paella at home, I say......starting with a purchase of a proper paella pan.


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All About Paella