The classic Paella Valenciana | Marc Fosh

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You could be forgiven for thinking that Spain’s rice dishes start and end with the ever-popular paella. However, the influence of rice on Spanish cookery is undeniable and there are many interesting and varied dishes throughout the whole of Spain featuring rice where it is paired with meat, fish, shellfish and vegetables and rice is also widely used to thicken stews and soups.

Valencia produces virtually all of the rice in Spain and it has been grown in the Albufera region of Valencia since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Its production spread north along the Mediterranean coast to the Delta Del Ebro and south into Extramadura and Mallorca. Here in Mallorca, our local rice is known as “Arroz bombeta” from the S’Albufera in the municipality of Sa Pobla.

Rice production in this area is still harvested in a traditional way and it was first planted here in way back in 1800. In the 50s and 60s of the 20th century, its production was almost abandoned, but happily in recent years arroz bombeta has made a welcome comeback.

In Spanish cookery you’ll find three different ways of cooking with rice. They are known as Arroz Caldoso, Meloso and seco. Arroz Caldoso is served with a spoon, as it is basically a broth type soup with rice. It’s made by sautéing the main ingredient (lobster, prawns, mushrooms etc.). The rice is then added and the broth. It’s boiled for about 15-17 minutes and served immediately.

Arroz Meloso is very creamy and deliciously unctuous in a similar way to the Italian risotto and Arroz seco is basically what we know as Paella where the rice absorbs all the liquid and is not stirred during its preparation so that it does not release starch and remains loose. The only real difference is that Arroz seco is finished in the oven to dry our a little.

The classic Paella Valenciana, like most peasant food, was invented with whatever happened to be at hand. With its rich, fertile soil, Valencia has an abundance of vegetables growing in the fields. Snails and rabbits would stop by to nibble on the leaves, and these would invariably find their way into the cooking pot too.

Add to that the proximity of the Albufera rice fields and the humble beginnings of paella were there. It gets its name from the peallera, the wide, round cooking dish that it is traditionally served in.

Paella mixta

This is a mixed meat and seafood paella and perhaps the most typical.

Serves 6

  • 3oog rice (arroz bomba)
  • 3 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 3 tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
  • 200g green beans
  • 150g fresh peas(cooked)
  • 100g garrafo(lime beans)
  • 2tspn Paprika
  • 500g rabbit (cut into small pieces)
  • 500g chicken legs (cut into small pieces)
  • 6 large Mediterranean prawns
  • 250g cleaned mussels
  • 250g cleaned clams
  • 6 Dublin bay prawns
  • 150g squid (diced)
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 1.2 litres chicken stock
  • Pinch of fresh saffron
  • Seasoning

1 Heat the olive oil in a wide-bottomed frying pan and fry the chicken and rabbit pieces for about 6-8 minutes until golden brown.

2 Add the chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic and paprika and cook for 3-4 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated.

3 Add the vegetables, rice and saffron and pour in the chicken stock.

4 Bring to the boil; add the seafood and season to taste. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.

5 Remove from the heat and leave the paella to stand for 2-3 minutes before serving. Take the whole dish to table and serve.