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Paella: Valencia's Iconic Dish

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Every year in March, Valencians (people from Valencia, Spain) will prepare thousands of paellas in the streets, coinciding with las Fallas, a traditional festival with its origins in the pagan tradition of the sacred fire at Spring Equinox. Paella means a lot to me, it is not just a rice dish it is the reflection of my childhood memories, of my father's savoir faire- great connoisseur of this iconic dish- the sun warming my cheeks, the Mediterranean breeze refreshing, family and friends laughs and endless afternoons around the fire, the table, the food. When you grow up in Valencia there are feelings linked to the dish, strong bonds that have been created by life experiences over the years. Every Valencian has a story linked to the dish that is unique to its experiences. What it is certain is that Paella is a reflection of our culture, our traditions carried out by centuries and our creativity's expression.

Paella is a dish that tells us about our enriched and varied culture infused by so many different civilisations all along our history. In the city of Valencia, the inhabitants came up with a recipe creating the perfect union of the Roman (who brought the pan called paella itself) and the Arab (who brought the rice and the saffron) cultures - It is also the expression of our humble yet innovative Valencian character. Back then (8th- 11th century) the rice grain was used in the rest of Spain only for medicinal purposes,whilst in Valencia we were already eating it on a daily basis. Paella was unknown by the rest of Spaniards until late 19th century, and was not cooked outer Valencia until the 40' and later on (pretty much the 80') spread out all around the world.

I've been gratefully surprised by this blog written in English about how to cook properly our traditional paella. I was about to write the whole recipe but this article is so well done that I'm going to share the link for you to read the recipe and I'll be writing myself another recipe for you to try. Ian, the blogger also includes some restaurants recommendations if you're planning to have some nice holidays in Valencia. He's clever, accurate and I enjoyed very much the reading. Well done Ian! Click here to read the blog post: Valencian Paella: the Real Deal

There is a huge variety of rice recipes in Valencia, some cooked in paella pan, others in little cauldrons; all of them delicious, tasty and healthy. I personally think it's good to vary and not to be limited to the classic paella with chicken, duck and/or rabbit and vegetables. Here are some of my favourites: a rice recipes: "arroz a banda", and "the senyoret" or a mellow rice called "la cassoleta d'arros de bogavante" (a local type of lobster) served in a small cauldron.... simply divine!

Today we will learn how to cook a good Paella de Verduras (veggies paella), very simple to prepare and delicious. Although we will not use any animal protein in this variety of paella, the taste is delicious and rich. With fresh small and tender artichokes, cauliflower and some other leftovers you've got in the fridge, we can prepare a wonderful recipe. First tip: use a pan for 4 to make rice for 2 so you can have a thin layer in the pan, the way it will be cooked is far more tasty, rice will be loose and it will be easier to get the crunchy toasted rice at the bottom every single Valencian love to have: socarraet.

Ingredients for 2 people

  • 1,5 cups of rice "bomba" or Arborio

  • 5 cups of vegetable broth/stock

  • 10 flat green beans

  • 1/2 garlic clove smashed (optional)

  • 1 freshly grated tomatoes

  • 1/2 green pepper

  • 20 white beans like butter beans

  • 1/4 cauliflower (you can add any other vegetable leftover)

  • 3 Saffron threads

  • 1 tsp sweet paprika

How to make a veggies paella

The night before, soak the butter beans if they are dried.

Let's start smashing the garlic, stir fry until golden with the oil directly into the paella pan. Add the grated tomato and green pepper cut into pieces and prepare a sauce that will enrich the base of our stock or vegetable broth. Cut the vegetables you will use in julienne or small pieces. I use to clean and cut into quarters artichokes, and separate cauliflower "tree seedlings". Add all the veggies first and rice later on into the paella pan and stir. Medium heat

Before they soften, add the paprika followed by the vegetable broth/stock in the paella. Once is all settled you add the saffron strands.

After 15-20 minutes, by then the broth would have infused already all the flavours of the ingredients. Cook then for 6-8 min with the heat up and then another 12-10 min simmering. VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT STIR THE RICE until the end of the cooking. When rice is done, we put some rosemary on top (optional), cover with a damp cloth and let stand for about 5 minutes before bringing into the table.

Preparation time: 45 minutes Difficulty: Medium

Are you ready for the next paella recipes? In the next cooking recipe I will show you how to cook Arroz a Banda; a beautiful seafood dish cooked in a paella pan that will delight the most exquisite palates!

Wishing you a magical week!

Sonia x

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