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 Paella Principles


Paella originates from the Valencia region of Spain and there is a "set" recipe for this original paella. From that original paella countless variations has arisen but the principles of a good paella are common to all of them.

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THE PAELLA PAN
A good paella pan is essential if you want an authentic paella. That's not to say that can't make a tasty paella in a frying pan / skillet but it will not be quite the same as the traditional paella. A good pan encourages even cooking of the rice and the formation of socarrat - the slightly crusty layer at the base of a good paella. Click here for lots more information on paella pans.

PAELLA RICE
Paella is all about the rice and the flavours it takes on when mixed with other ingredients. The chicken pieces, fish, chorizo or whatever else is added are tasty but the star of the show is definitely the rice.

It makes sense therefore, to use the best rice for a paella and that is paella rice. The outside of the rice softens but the inside of the grains retains an almost nutty texture. Different from risotto rice and most definitely different to long grain rice. Read more in our definitive article on types of paella rice by clicking here.

THE BASE SAUCE OR SOFRITO
All good paella have a base sauce which consists of ripe plum tomatoes, onions and garlic. Other ingredients are added according to regional variations and whatever is in season. Cook the sofrito on a lowish heat until the moisture is reduced and the mixture stacks up in the pan.

OTHER ELEMENTS
There are a number of other elements to a good paella which vary little whatever recipe is used. First, where any of the ingredients are sautéed, good quality Spanish virgin olive oil is used. This is more about tradition rather than taste because Spanish olive oil varies dependant on the region of production. A good quality Greek (heaven forbid!) or Italian virgin olive oil will do just as well.

When the rice is added to the sofrito some form of additional liquid will be needed so that the rice can absorb it. If a good sofrito has been prepared then water is the Spanish preferred liquid. Stock, either fresh or canned will add even more flavour.

Saffron is a key ingredient to many paella recipes, it colours the rice and gives the paella a delicate background flavour. Read our detailed article on saffron and how to use it in cooking.

Finally, when all the cooking is complete the paella is taken off the heat and rested for five minutes or so. This ensures the rice is fully cooked and settles down. Cover with a towel or similar during this time to retain heat and keep the paella clean.

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