Simple Spanish Paella Recipe
Beautiful beaches, classy football games, marvelous architecture, wonderful dance and exciting bullfights are not the only things the Spanish people have offered to the world. Delectable food is something the Spaniards are famous for as well. Be it alcohol and drinks, tapas or traditional rice items, a Spanish item on the table can steal the show any day.
The Origin of Paella
Every area in Spain has its own treasured delicacy making Spanish cuisine one of the worlds’ most diverse cuisine. Paella is one such renowned Spanish rice item that originated from Valencia, on the eastern coast of Spain. It is often considered as the national dish of Spain due to its widespread popularity.
Gaining its name from the regional language of Valencia, it literally translates to “frying pan”. A wide, flat and shallow pan, is used to cook this dish. Like many other great dishes, this one can also be traced back to basic roots and a pastoral story.
In the mid-19th century, field workers would cook up this dish for lunch. Being devoted practitioners of the Spanish culture siesta (mandatory afternoon nap), they had plenty of time. Rice was cooked on a flat pan over an open fire and they would add whatever they found suitable, including snails, vegetables, rabbit or chicken meat.
Fast forward to today, paella is a world-famous dish that now has hundreds of variations. Although the traditional and authentic paella can only be found in Valencia, all regions of Spain serve up this dish. From restaurants to homes, paella is now a common household name. The tantalizing taste of this item is not only limited to Spain, but many restaurants all over the world are serving this too!
Head on to your local Spanish restaurant and you will be baffled by the number of variations this dish has now. It may now contain pork, shellfish, fish, eel, seafood, squid, beans, bell peppers and artichokes; the sky is the limit. There are many different types of paellas that are available today. Seafood paella is considered to be the most common one among them.
Different Types of Paella
As the recipes evolved over the years, it can now be condensed to five main categories of paellas. They are:
- Paella Valenciana: This is the most authentic and traditional style of paella that is available. Although traditionally it was served with rabbit and snails, nowadays people use chicken, duck, or pork instead. Other typical flavors added to this paella are green vegetables, tomato, bell pepper, garlic, and onions.
- Paella de Marisco: Also known as Paella de Marinera, this is the seafood version of paella and currently the most popular one in the world. This uses meat from the ocean instead of land. Common additions are shrimp, squid, mussels, and clams.
It is a more summery and lighter version as compared to the more traditional form of paella. A sub-variation was created from this type of paella known as Arroz Caldoso. This has a soupy texture with more liquid. This Mediterranean version is sure to give you a taste of the ocean.
- Paella Mixta: This paella combines the best of both worlds into one plate. Having both seafood and meat, this one is for people who struggle to make a choice. Well, now they don’t have to! Paella Mixta has it all – hearty meat and salty seafood. The meat is cooked first, then rice and lastly the seafood elements are added.
- Paella Negra: A unique variation of paella, this one is typically found in Galicia and is not for everyone. The name originates from the pitch-black color of the paella rice. It is cooked in squid ink to give it this characteristic color and a rich, salty flavor. Squeezing in fresh lemon juice will add a zing to it and uplift the flavor profile.
- Paella Vegetariana: Finally there is an option for vegan and vegetarian people, because why should they be left out from this scrumptious delicacy? It is a colorful plate that contains lots of vegetables including bell peppers, artichokes, mushrooms, olives, beans and peas. No meat is added so that vegetarians can enjoy in peace.
Signature Factors in Cooking Paella
Although you can play around with the ingredients, one core ingredient in making the paella that cannot be substituted or eliminated at any cost is saffron. Saffron, a crimson-colored delicate spice that comes in the form of little threads has long been the most expensive ingredient in the food industry by weight.
Despite being expensive, it is worth the price as it will take your paella to the next level and make it taste as authentic and professional as possible. This adds a distinct taste, aroma and gives paella its signature yellow hue.
Another important ingredient that must be used while cooking paella is any short-grain rice. There are many types of short grain rice available in the market such as Arborio, Senia, Bahfa and Thaibonnet but bomba is best preferred for paella. These work best for absorbing a large amount of liquid while cooking.
Another important factor to take care of while cooking paella is the pan you are using. Knowing the name derived from the style of pan it was natively cooked in, you can determine its prominence in the recipe. There are special paella pans available in Spain. However, if you do not want to invest there or do not have access, then any flat, non-stick frying pan will do. The pan should be shallow, about two inches thick only so that the rice comes into maximum contact with the bottom and the heat is spread evenly. This lets the paella get its sacarrat, which is the crusty rice at the bottom of the pan.
Famous Paella Recipes
Classic Paella Recipe
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- 4 cups short-grain rice
- 6 cups water
- ¼ cup olive oil or vegetable oil
- 3 pounds of chicken
- 2 chorizo sausages
- 1 onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 can whole tomatoes
- Pinch of saffron
- Chicken spice mix
- Salt and black pepper as required to taste
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 lemon
- ½ cup peas
- ½ cup bell peppers
- 1 bunch fresh parsley leaves
- First, prepare all the ingredients. Chop onions, bell pepper and tomatoes. Crush and chop the garlic, slice the chorizo sausages, dice the chicken and marinate it. Chop up the parsley and cut the lemon into wedges.
- Fry the pieces of chicken in a pan with olive oil. Once cooked, not fully, remove it and add more oil.
- One by one, add in the onions, garlic and tomatoes. Stir until they caramelize and then add in the rice. Stir for a while and then add in water. Let the rice cook for 15 minutes and move the pan around frequently.
- Add in the rest of the ingredients and re-add the cooked chicken. Let them all marry and cook for a further 10 minutes. During the last minute of cooking, turn up the heat to get a toasted, crispy bottom.
- This paella is now ready to be served with lemon wedges!