When it comes to Tapas and Spanish food, the King is “la Paella”. And the Paella is not touristic bulls**t. Paella is the real thing!
The most popular version of Paella is the Fish and Seafood Paella (as the one you can see in the picture above from Casa Pepita, but todayw e are going to learn about the Authentic paella: The Valencian (as for Valencia) paella, made with meat and vegetables.
Every family from Barcelona to Sevilla enjoys an authentic Paella with the beloved ones every then and now, most of times preparing it at home, mostly on Sundays (while in restaurants the tradition is to serve Paella on Thursdays).
To bring you the real, the Authentic, Paella recipe, we have the help from Santi, manager of Casa Pepita, a restaurant where you can have the best Paella you’ve ever had. He will be adding tips to the process.
Origins of the Paella
Before staring the fire and pouring oil to the pan, it’s very important to understand where does this dish comes from. And it comes from Valencia. Originally a very humble dish, done with whatever was available: mainly vegetables, rabbit, and with the time, fish from the local fishermen. And, of course, using rice as a base, something that the Valencians have always hand very handy.
Then, it began to grow rapidly and having thousands of different formulations and ingredients. But, as Santi points out:
“The Secret of “la Paella” is not what you put in it (meat, fish, veggies), but doing it the proper way” – Santi
Types of Paella
That being said, according to the ingredients La Paella is different at every home, and no 2 people will cook it the same. It’s a classic topic for argument, depending on the region or even the town where one comes from. But there’s overall agreement in the main types of Paella:
- The original Valencian Recipe (white meat and vegetables)
- Mixed Paella (meat and fish stock base) More popular in the center of Spain
- Fish / Sea food paella (fish and sea food stock) Typicall in Catalonia
So, I’ll share the recipe I use (adapted to the UK ingredients), which is the authentic Valencian recipe, which I knew thanks to LaPaella.net and many friends from Valencia that shared their family secrets with me.
All the pictures ahead are from my self following the recipe explained.
Ingredients for 4 people
- 400 gr of Paella Rice, ideally “Bomba” kind, but for some it’s overrated and it’s not worth the cost. Any Spanish rice will make. Spanish rice is easy to identify, it’s like a typical Spanish fella: short and fat! Don’t even think of using basmati or long rice for Paella, you’ll just waste your time and end up disappointed with the result. You can buy Paella Rice pretty much anywhere in the UK: Tesco (£1,19), M&S, Waitrose Bomba (£2,65), or in the Online Spanish shopping websites.
- 500 gr of Chicken or Rabbit , or both (in small pieces). Rabbit (if available) use 300 grs (half rabbit approx, in medium pieces)
- 1/2 Red pepper
- Paprika (Spanish, if possible)
- 1 small can of Chopped Tomato (125 gr)
- 400 gr of Flat green beans
- 100grs /1 can of large White beans
- 1 Artichoke (optional)
- Olive oil (at least half a cup)
- Saffron (as little as few stigmas are enough). Nice to have. If not available, no worries.
The Paella Pan
As you may know, the name “Paella” comes from the “pan” where the Paella is cooked. A Paella is a Pan, but a “Paella pan” is a special type of pan, if that makes sense.
It’s very important to have one, a proper one, if you enjoy cooking Paella. As it’s a dish that takes time and several tries to master, it’s worth investing in one (it’s super cheap, and you can use it for many other dishes).
Just be aware that the size of the Paella will determine the amount of rations cooked. If the Paella is for 4 people, you can only cook Paella for 4 in that pan (for reasons we’ll explain later).
If you are determined to get one, you can find many places Online to buy one, around 12 GBP for one 4 people size (recommended). If you can choose, find one large and short rather than deep:
Do I need a Pella Stand?
Paella Stands are great for big paellas, up to four people, as these kind of Paellas don’t fit on the cooking stoves. We have 2 Paellas at our place in London, and as you can see in the pictures, the large one for 8 People can’t be used in here without a stand, as the paella won’t have the required heat from the stoves.
Long story short: if you are doing Paella for 2 or 4, you really don’t need it.
The Authentic Paella recipe
Once we have the Pan and the Ingredients is moment to get to the action.
Pour to the pan and heat up a good layer of olive oil, at least covering 70-80% of the diameter of the pan.
Gently Salt and Pepper the chicken and rabbit, and fry them first. After 10 minutes aprox, the oil will turn brown and the meat golden. Bring down the heat.
Once the meat is well done, golden, and the oil is brown, put the fire low and move the meat to the sides of the pan. If there’s no oil in there, put some salt directly on the pan and place the meat over it (to prevent it from burning).
Now comes the most critical part. The base for the Paella. And it’s unfortunate that it can’t be translated, but “Sofrito” is a oil, onion, pepper and garlic base that is cooked slowly and is the base of many mediterranean dishes. That’s what we want to make in our paella now.
In the hole you created in the middle, pour the tomato, red pepper and the paprika, and let it slowly cook. Patience is the key here.
“El sofrito demands time and patience… low fire and slowly without burning anything” – Santi
The choice of using onion now is a hardly discussed topic, many receipes would advice not to use it, but other do. Santi uses it and the result is magnificent.
Let it all cook slowly until the tomato melts with the oil and becomes reddish.
Tip: Once the paprika is mixed with the oil, bring the heat to low-medium as it can easily burn
When the Sofrito is ready, pour the other vegetables (green beans, artichokes, white beans) and cook them briefly for 5 minutes with the oil. You should have something very similar to this:
Now, bring the heat up again and fill the pan with water (tap water) almost to the top. Exactly! We are doing a stock. At this point, add some salt. Don’t be afraid.
Let the stock boil at medium-strong heat for at least 20 minutes, until the water reaches the inner bolts of the handles (that’s why the pan is so important!). Here you can see a detail of the right moment, when the stock is ready:
At this point, we will add the rice. Pour it into the pan with the shape of a cross, allowing it to show half inch on the surface. Add the saffron on the top of the rice:
Now, things get stressing. First, you want to taste the stock on salt (a bit salty is good). Then you have to count 20 minutes, being the first 10 at medium – strong heat, and the last 10 (until the water runs out) medium – low. Of course, never cover the Paella, as it needs to evaporate the water for the stock. Avoid stirring and mixing if possible.
When 20 minutes have passed, the water must be dried up and the paella is ready. Remove the pan from the heat source / fire and cover for the last 5 minutes with a newspaper (it will get the extra humidity from the rice).
And that’s it. Your first Real Spanish Paella is ready! It should look like this:
As final tip, Santi reminds us:
“Don`t worry for the ingredients, you can make a Paella with anything as long as you cook them following the instructions” – Santi
How was the experience? Please comment and let us know any feedback or questions!
PS: Thank you Santi for your tips and help!!
Follow us in @TheRealTapas to tell us if you liked this post and be updated on recipes and tapas related news!