Paella is a Valencian rice dish. Paella has ancient roots, but its modern form originated in the mid-19th century in the area around Albufera lagoon on the east coast of Spain, adjacent to the city of Valencia. Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain’s national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.
Paella is a Valencian word which derives from the Old French word paelle for pan, which in turn comes from the Latin word patella for pan.
On special occasions, 18th century Valencians used calderos to cook rice in the open air of their orchards near lake Albufera. Water vole meat was one of the main ingredients of early paellas, along with eel and butter beans.
On the Mediterranean coast, Valencians used seafood instead of meat and beans to make paella. Valencians regard this recipe as authentic, as well. In this recipe, the seafood is served in the shell. A variant on this is paella del senyoret which uses seafood without shells. Later, however, Spaniards living outside of Valencia combined seafood with meat from land animals and the mixed paella was born. This paella is sometimes called preparación Barroca (baroque preparation) due to the variety of ingredients and its final presentation.
2 cups olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
3/4 chicken, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 1/2 pounds green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds broad beans, shelled
1/2 tomato, chopped
4 1/2 cups water, or fill up the paella pan to the height of the handles 2 times
2 cups snails, cleaned, fresh or frozen
1 1/4 pounds plus 1-ounce rice (3.5 ounces per person) (recommended: Bomba – short grain rice)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pinch saffron, for colouring
Sprigs rosemary, as garnish
Special equipment: large shallow pan
- Heat 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the oil in a pan. Add the strips of pepper and fry until they start to soften. Remove and reserve for garnish.
- Fry the chicken at medium heat until golden brown, adding more oil, as necessary. Add the paprika halfway through to add colour to the meat.
- Push the meat out to the edges of the pan and add the beans and tomatoes in the centre, mixing them well.
- Add 1/2 the water making sure to cover the pan until it is 1/2 full.
- Simmer for approximately 30 minutes until most of the water has evaporated.
- Add the snails and cook for 5 or 10 minutes. Add the rice, distributing it evenly over the pan and fry for a few minutes, moving it around in the pan. Add the rest of the water and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add a pinch of saffron for colour. Once this is done the paella should not be stirred anymore. For the last 1 to 2 minutes increase the heat to medium-high, until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelize, creating what Valencians call the “socarrat”. If the rice starts to burn remove the pan from the heat immediately.
- Garnish the paella with the strips of red pepper and the sprigs of rosemary. Cover the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.