SPANISH MEDITERRANEAN DIET - FOODS, RECIPES & BENEFITS
A way of eating based on traditional foods
The rice dish known around the world as paella comes in a variety of versions. The highly versatile dish is spiced with Spanish saffron to achieve its golden yellow color and can incorporate virtually any type of meat or seafood available, ranging from chicken, pork and rabbit to fish, squid or eel.
There are many stories about the origins of paella. In one version, servants of Moorish kings mixed together all the left-overs from banquets to take home and the resulting hodge-podge was paella. Modern paella didn’t appear until the mid-nineteenth century in an area near the city of Valencia, located in the east of Spain.
Most experts agree the name comes from the special pan in which it’s made called a patella. In Latin, it’s a flat plate used to make offerings to the gods. Workers would use a patella to cook the dish over an open fire while working in the fields, using any type of ingredients they could find, even snails.
There’s considerable debate over the origin and authenticity of paella within Spain and internationally. The first known recipe dates to 1857 and mentions the name "paella" specifically.
The basics of paella
A traditional paella pan is essential for the even distribution of heat. When cooking, the fire must begin very hot for browning the meat that will be used and the rice will simmer as the fire cools. Paella must be cooked over an open fire of charcoal or with a gas paella burner. Kits of paella pans, tripods and burners are available for making traditional paella.
Bomba rice from the eastern coast of Spain should be used for optimal results. It’s a round variety of rice that absorbs more liquid than other types. The recipe also requires Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Spanish saffron and Pimentón de la Vera – an artisan smoked paprika with a sweet or spicy taste - for authentic paella.
Many versions, multiple flavors
A wealth of paella versions exist to match the tastes and preferences of the individuals who cook it. The three basic recipes are:
The traditional way of eating paella is to place it in the middle of the table and serve it from the paella pan in which it was cooked.
Paella is one of the most recognized and popular of Spanish dishes on international menus. In Spain, many versions of paella can be found, all of which are authentic, depending on the area, available seasonal ingredients, and family traditions.
Professional chefs seek to recreate traditional paella to please their guests. As long as Bomba rice, Spanish saffron, olive oil and pimentón de la vera comprise the basic ingredients and it's prepared in a paella pan over an open fire, home cooks have a variety of elements they can incorporate to make paella their own.