Looking for a traditional Spanish recipe? Without doubt, the best-known is going to be the prodigious paella ... that tasty, adaptable, gregarious dish famed throughout Spain and the World.
And, what an impressive choice of recipes exist for a pleasurable paella: seafood, chicken, rabbit ... or a mixture of all three! Perhaps you are non-meat eating ... well, just opt for one of the several vegetarian paella recipes. Bit of a health fanatic? Then substitute white rice for whole-grain rice or wild rice.
Got a large family and not much money to feed them on? Use plenty of rice and imagination along with a tasty stock, plus whatever you can find in the cupboard! I have certainly enjoyed many paellas where there have been more bones/shells than meat/seafood! And, very tasty they have been too, the richness of the company more than compensating for any paucity in the ingredients.
So ... how do you go about making the perfect paella? First of all, you need to choose your rice. The short-grained rice from Valencia - where most Spanish rice originates - is fine for making paellas. However, the "bomba" rice grown in the neighboring region of Murcia, is the "king" of paella rice: again, short-grained, it has the ability to absorb the stock whilst remaining firm.
Another "must" is to use saffron ("azafrán") to create the gentle, yellow color for which this delectable dish is renowned. Yes, it is possible to buy cheaper, artificial colorings but ... go for the traditional - it will bestow a wonderful aroma and unique flavor.
Many Spaniards swear a perfect paella can only be achieved when using a tasty, home-made stock. Whatever you decide, allow at least double the amount of liquid to rice. If, during cooking, the dish becomes a little dry, just add a dash more water or stock.
Another tip I have been told, on more than one occasion, is to gently fry the rice for a few minutes before adding the stock, ensuring that it is well-coated in oil. I think all Spaniards would agree that, once cooked, it is best to leave your paella to stand for a good five minutes before serving.
Perhaps the most important ingredient for making that perfect paella, is to use lashings and lashings of love whilst preparing it - for surely, that is something we can all afford - and to enjoy to the full the marvellous company of those who will share it with you.
I shall now have to choose a paella recipe to offer you as an example! I think I will opt for a seafood paella, typical of the region of Valencia, where I live. The ingredients are for a hearty four servings. If you are not a hefty eater, or on a diet, then reduce the amount of rice/stock slightly.
Paella Valenciana - Paella From Valencia
- 4 cups rice. - 8 cups fish stock. - 8 king-sized prawns/langoustines. - 8 mussels. - 200 gr shrimps. - 200 gr peas (fresh or frozen). - 2 tomatoes, skinned and chopped. - 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced. - 3 strands saffron, crumbled. - Olive oil for frying.
1. Sauté garlic in a paella-type pan.
2. Add tomatoes, peas, shrimps and saffron.
3. Cook for a few minutes.
4. Add rice and stock.
5. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
6. Decorate with prawns and mussels.
7. Cover paella with a lid.
8. Poach the seafood for a few minutes.
9. Decorate paella with lemon quarters.