Tuesday, 24 May 2011

La Paella - A great, bank holiday, family meal

Seafood Paella ingredients - oil on canvas


The Muslims introduced rice growing to the Valencia region in south east Spain in the year 711AD, and today vast paddy fields grow acres of world famous Valencian rice which make perfect paellas.

Paella was originally a laborers' meal, cooked over an open fire in the fields and eaten directly from the pan using wooden spoons. It was at one time, common place for marsh rats to be eaten in the Paella, as rats were found in profusion along the marshy coastline

Paddy fields, Valencia

Snails were the most commonly used meat as they were cheap ; for special occasions rabbit or duck would be added and the well-off would have chicken. Anyone that tries to tell you that the original paella was a seafood dish is wrong. However, seafood paella  Paella Marisco, seems to be a favourite with tourists. Another favourite is seafood and meat combined, known as Paella Mista

Despite tourists' desire to get a well-made fresh paella and their willingness to pay over the odds for it, one of the appeals of paella to the Spanish is that it can be cooked in large quantities and will still taste good later that day or even the next day, which is a good thing as making paella is a laborious task. Making large quantities saves time later. It is popular in restaurants as it can be served all day and is popular with restaurant clientele as they can have 'instant' paella without the hassle of making it themselves.

In Valencia things are a little different, making paella is a part of local pride and every mother claims to make the best paella in the land!  So, you can only imagine how surprised I was when I came 3rd in a local Paella cooking contest in Valencia. These competitions are held in the streets, during the fabulous fiestas, known as 'LAS FALLAS'.  http://www.lasfallas.net/

Now, where did I put that medal????

Here is the recipe for Paella Valenciana, the main dish I cooked on 'COME DINE WITH ME'

Chris and Lorraine on Come dine with me

6 tablespoon olive oil
1whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 rabbit, cleaned and cut into pieces
1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled and finely chopped 
2 tomato, finely chopped
1 can butter beans
1 lb fresh string less beans
1 chicken stock cube
salt to taste
1 pinch saffron threads
dried thyme to taste (optional)
dried rosemary to taste (optional)
1 lb Paella rice
4 lemons

Heat a paella pan (un Paellero) over medium-high heat, and coat with olive oil. Add the chicken, rabbit and garlic; cook and stir until nicely browned. Move the browned meat to the sides of the pan, and add the tomato, butter beans and green beans.

Fill the paella pan almost to the top with water, measuring the water as you put it in. This is to help you to determine how much rice to add, as paella pans come in different sizes. Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 25 mins to make a nice broth.

Season with a generous amount of salt, and just enough saffron to make a nice yellow color. Season with thyme and rosemary if desired. The goal is to make a rich tasting broth that will soak into the rice to make it delicious. Stir in half as much rice as the amount of water in the pan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes.

Let stand for 10 mins - then garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Paella Valenciana