Paella seems as synonymous with Spain as snails are with France but did you know snails are also a key ingredient in paella? Traditional Valencian paella is a little different to the version most Mancunians are familiar with.
One of the world’s most famous rice dishes, paella is eaten all over Spain but its inception can be traced back to Valencia as far back as the 17th century – with its namesake pan invented a couple of hundred years later.
Paella is a dish that has evolved over centuries and there is some heated dispute over the “right” way to make it. If you want to get super nerdy, check out Wikipaella which breaks down the most popular ingredients based on interviews with a couple of hundred paella chefs – you might be surprised.
The farmers toiling in the rice fields of Valencia took their precious crop and added ingredients they found around the rice fields to flavour it. Tomatoes, herbs and flowers like saffron were key, but also the snails that feasted on them. Abundant too were rabbits, so in the pot they went to add rich, meaty depth of flavour to this wholesome family meal.
Following the death of Franco, Spain ramped itself up as a tourist destination and this is the point at which many Spaniards feel the true essence and tradition of paella got a little lost. Many modern versions are now somewhat removed from their roots.
If you want to eat a truly traditional paella, faithful to the OG rice farmers’ recipes, a Spanish restaurant in Manchester is offering you the opportunity to do that. La Bandera is adding rabbit and snail paella (aka paella de conejo e caracoles) to the Manchester restaurant’s menu and celebrating with a special launch party.
We’ve tried this delicious dish and it got top marks from the team. Bone-in hunks of rabbit are stir fried til golden before adding a tomato heavy sofrito base and cooking it down to a rich paste.
Next, water, saffron, rosemary and snails are added to create a flavourful broth which is simmered before adding the all important bomba rice. The rice absorbs all those heady flavours as it swells up and cooks, caramelising on the bottom of the pan to create the all important sticky, crispy bits.
Snails have a milder flavour than the seafood you might be used to eating in paella but are similar in texture to clams and they love to soak up garlicky buttery flavours. Rabbit adds a gamey richness to the dish and La Bandera add blackened green peppers, chopped parsley and a spritz of lemon as a finishing touch to their version.
Want to try this traditional paella in Manchester? Join the La Bandera team at the launch on Thursday 2 February. The relaxed event features arrival drinks, a brief speech about the history of paella, an Iberico ham carving demonstration, and a three-course dinner for £45 per person.
To start, diners will share a board of Spanish cheese and Iberico ham before tucking into the Valencian style rabbit and snail paella followed by a traditional Spanish dessert. Each course can be paired with a flight of matching wines for an extra £10 per person and we’ve arranged a 20% discount for Finest readers.
Snail and rabbit paella launch party
La Bandera 2 Ridgefield, Manchester M2 6EQ
Thursday 2 February 2023, 7-10pm
Exclusive 20% off Finest discount code MFLB23