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The prodigious paella - tasty, adaptable, gregarious dish famed throughout Spain and the World - is surely the dish that first comes to mind when thinking of traditional Spanish recipes.

And, what an impressive choice of recipes exist - seafood, chicken, rabbit ... or a mixture of all three.

Perhaps you're non-meat eating?... Well, just opt for one of the many vegetarian recipes.

Bit of a health fanatic? Then substitute white rice for whole-grain rice or wild rice.

Got a large family and not much money to feed them on? Use plenty of rice, imagination and love - along with a tasty stock, plus whatever you can find in the cupboard.

I've certainly enjoyed many paellas where there have been more bones/shells than meat/ seafood. And, very tasty they've been too - the richness of the company more than compensating for any paucity in ingredients.

So ... how do you go about making this wonderful dish?

First of all, you need to choose your rice. The short-grained rice from Valencia - where most Spanish rice originates - is fine for making paellas.

However, the "bomba" rice - grown in the neighboring region of Murcia - is the "king" ... short-grained, it has the ability to absorb the stock whilst remaining firm.

Another "must" is to use saffron ("azafr n") to create the gentle, yellow color for which this delectable dish is renowned.

Yes, it's possible to buy cheaper, artificial colorings but ... go for the traditional - it will bestow a wonderful aroma and unique flavor.

Many Spaniards swear perfection can only be achieved when using a tasty, home-made stock. Whatever you decide, allow at least double the amount of liquid to rice.

If, during cooking, the dish becomes a little dry, just add a dash more water or stock.

Another tip I've been told - on more than one occasion - is to gently fry the rice in oil for a few minutes before adding the stock.

I think all Spaniards would agree that - once cooked - it's best to leave paellas to stand for a good five minutes before serving.

Perhaps the most important ingredient is to use lashings and lashings of love whilst preparing it for, surely, that is something we can all afford. And enjoy to the full the marvellous company of those who will share it with you.

I shall now have to choose a recipe to offer you as an example!... I think I'll opt for a seafood paella, typical of the region of Valencia, where I live.

The ingredients are for a hearty four servings. If you are not a hefty eater, or on a diet, then reduce the amount of rice/stock slightly.

Paella Valenciana

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rice
  • 8 cups fish stock
  • 8 king-sized prawns/langoustines
  • 8 mussels
  • 200 gr shrimps
  • 200 gr peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 strands saffron, crumbled
  • Olive oil for frying

Method

  • Saut garlic in a paella-type pan.
  • Add tomatoes, peas, shrimps and saffron.
  • Cook for a few minutes, add rice and stock.
  • Simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Decorate with prawns and mussels.
  • Cover with a lid.
  • Poach the seafood for a few minutes.
  • Decorate with lemon quarters.
  • Enjoy!




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by Linda Plummer of Top Tour of Spain




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