Did You Know There Are Several
Variations of Paella in Spain?
If you like to learn about international dishes, you must have heard of Paella. Although the most widespread types are Seafood Paella and the original, Valencian Paella, there are more than ten types of Paella. This has to do with a quality that distinguishes Spanish cuisine: having ingredients and techniques from many different countries and not only neighboring ones.
Where did it all come from?
It all started back in the 8th century when the Muslim community took rice to Spain. This Arabic influence that the colonization process brought with it came to stay: rice started to be grown all over Europe. Many other ingredients that are used for several of the Paella recipes, were introduced to Spain by the Spanish colonizers themselves; some came from colonies, others from trips through the Silk Route.
Now, we’ll try to answer the frequent question: what is Paella? Picture this: we find ourselves in a rural area in Valencia with shepherds and farmers in the 16thcentury. It is thought that the original recipe is Valencian Paella, although it is not known for sure if its coastal version originated at the same time. Valencian Paella was eaten at lunchtime and prepared with meat from the chickens and rabbits that were hunted in the region surrounding the Albufera lake. Now, let’s take a trip to other regions.
Seven ways of cooking Paella
True to its origins, Paella is still a lunchtime staple in many Spanish homes. The basic ingredients for a Paella are rice, legumes, tomato, onion, garlic, peppers, and any kind of meat cooked and seasoned in a paella or paellera —that is, a pan.
We talked about the two main types of Paella already, the third type is quite simple: you just have to join the countryside Valencian Paella and the coastal Seafood Paella. Close relatives of seafood paella are the lobster paella, which is served with an entire lobster on top of it, and black paella, which is not made with black rice —what gives it its color is the squid ink. The complete opposite, at least in name, is white paella, quite common in Andalucía and made with ham and salami. The seventh type is the Vegetarian Paella, where you could replace meat with a greater variety of vegetables: asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms, etc.
All these options must have got you hungry, so let’s try at home a classic recipe of seafood paella.
Ingredients (4 servings)
- Olive oil.
- 2 garlic cloves.
- Fresh parsley.
- 2 cups of rice.
- 4 cups of shrimp stock.
- ½ kg squid.
- ½ kg fresh shrimp.
- 1 onion.
- Seashells (clams and mussels).
- 1 medium tomato.
- ½ cup of peas.
- ½ red pepper.
- Salt and pepper.
- Saffron strands or yellow coloring.
Preparation (45 minutes)
- Clean and peel the shrimps. Make broth from the shells and head. Set it aside for later.
- Also clean the squids and chop them into rounds.
- Clean also the seashells with plenty of water so that they release any sand residue.
- Add olive oil in a deep-frying and large pan like a paella pan. Chop the tomato in small squares and sauté it together with the garlic, onion and red pepper. Add some salt and pepper.
- Add and cook the squid and the seashells. After a few minutes, a broth should be starting to form.
- Add the rice and mix everything, stirring. Now, you need to top the rice with liquid. You will add the shrimp broth and if it is not enough to cover everything, add water and keep stirring.
- Add the saffron threads or a teaspoon of yellow coloring and let it boil for 3 minutes or so.
- Chop the parsley to a very small size. When there is still liquid in the pan, add the shrimps, the fresh peas, and the parsley. Taste it to check if the seasoning is right and add the necessary spices.
- Keep cooking until the liquid is mostly gone. At this point you can add some red pepper strips for decoration and some shrimps with their shells.
- Let it cook for about 15 minutes in a lower heat.
- Try the rice to taste if it is ready. If it is, remove from the heat.
Final tip: When serving your seafood paella, add a drizzle of olive oil on top to enhance its flavor.