In fact, it is probably one of the most well-known and popular ‘world-foods’ around – but to define what it is exactly is practically impossible. Almost every cook and every family will have a slight variation or two which makes it rather difficult to describe its true essence. The varieties are – quite literally– endless.
What we do know is its beginnings, and we sat down with the minds behind authentic Spanish restaurant La Bandera to learn the facts.
It is an undisputed fact that Paella originates from Valencia on the East side of Spain. This area is known as one of the best places to grow rice in the whole Mediterranean after it was brought over from the Middle East some 12,000 years ago by the Moors. The Spanish word for rice (Arroz) even stems from the Arabic language rather than Latin as we might expect.
Paella is a dish of humble beginnings, designed to feed a lot of people at once, using what was around them for as little cost as possible. Traditionally speaking, Paella was used to feed farm workers and outdoor labourers and was cooked in huge batches over a coal fire at lunchtime.
The recipe would, in its basic form, consist of rice cooked in water or stock and whatever you could find in the fields – think tomatoes, onion, rabbit and snails for flavour and texture as well as a little saffron for that distinct terracotta hue.
But that being said, the combinations and variations are endless. Paella has evolved to include anything from chorizo to chicken, duck, prawns, shellfish, olives and beans. Literally, anything goes -there is no right or wrong approach to Paella.
At La Bandera, their Arroz De La Granja is a nod to traditional Paella which mixes chicken and tender beef steak with piquillo peppers for a sophisticated re-vamp of a humble dish finished with a sprig of thyme and a liberal blob of their sumptuous aioli.
What La Bandera does stay true to, however, is the use of Bomba rice – the traditional rice used in Paella which is grown in Valencia. This rice is small and round in form and sweet and nutty in flavour which is perfect at capturing that authentic taste of paella.
Eating paella is a social event through and through. The name itself comes from the pan in which it is cooked in, and in the beginning, the dish was eaten communally straight from the pan using a large spoon. Even today, Paella is central to family meals and celebrations, and no tapas feast is complete without it.
If you want a true taste of rural Valencia, I strongly recommend you head to La Bandera and give their Arroz De la Granja a try.
La Bandera, 2 Ridgefield, Manchester M2 6EQ
0161 833 9019