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The Best Paella: you'll never guess what the three rules to making it are!

This traditional Spanish rice dish is a favourite around the world, but did you know that it originates from the province of Valencia? If you happen to pass a by Spanish restaurant, chances are you'll see paella on the menu. However most of whats out there is fusion, and any self-respecting Valencian will tell you, that ain't paella! So I just had to go find out what the locals constitute an authentic paella and when the opportunity to cook one with a local chef popped up I couldn't say no! Here's what I learnt...

I decided to make the trek to Valencia by car, even though it was a good 2 1/2 hour drive from where I was staying. Something told me I had to do it, and boy am I glad I did. The night before I found an AirBnB experiences with chef Ramón for an authentic paella class. The following morning, we met up at the Mercat de Russafa for a bit of a tour and to pick up ingredients and then headed to a quaint little resto called Slaughterhouse for the class. Along with 9 other amazing foodies, we cooked an authentic paella with Romón's fantastic instructions and tips. What I took away from the experience is if you follow a few simple rules, paella is easy to make.

At the Slaughterhouse with the amazing international foodies I cooked with!

First off, it goes without saying like with most recipes, a good paella should be made from scratch. The process takes about an hour and you typically need to cook it over an open flame. If you have gas at home, great, but if not don't worry I've got you covered with a few tips so you can still make a great paella :) And surprisingly the ingredients list is quite small. What you'll need is short grain rice (arborio is perfect), water, salt, saffron, paprika, at least 2 veggies and either white meat or seafood.


Rule No.1, there are three types of paella; meat, seafood or vegetarian. If you see a meat & seafood combo on the menu, run don't walk, its not authentic paella lol

Rule No.2, under no circumstances should there ever be any chorizo in paella. Although chorizo is super delicious, it will completely overpower the most prized ingredient in this dish, the saffron. Saffron gives off a gorgeous golden colour as well as a super delicate flavour. Adding ingredients with bold flavours is a big no no, which is why you won't find any onions in this dish either. For me this was a big ah ha moment because all my attempts at paella in the past had included onions and chorizo... oups!

Rule No. 3, use fresh seasonal ingredients. Wether it be the meat, fish or vegetables don't be a stickler to following a recipe to a T. If you don't have those ingredients available fresh, especially when it comes to the veggies, avoid frozen or canned unless you want the paella gods to look down on you with contempt. Instead change up the ingredients for something you can either rehydrate or thats in season, almost anything goes!

Follow these rules and you're more than half way to enjoying an authentic paella with your loved ones! Next, let's talk cook ware. Traditionally, paella is done in a large pan made specifically for this recipe. At the market they sell paella pans, and the gas elements and accessories to cook it with. Valencians take paella making seriously but if you want to give it a try at home for 2, 4 or even 6 people, here's the special equipment you'll need; either a large stainless steel or cast iron pan. Yup, thats it :)

Authentic Chicken Paella

Serves: 4
  • 400g short grain rice (arborio)

  • 6 cups water

  • 2 cups chopped veggies (green beans, peppers, artichokes or whatever is in season)

  • 1 cup beans (lima & pinto work great)

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 3 roma tomates, grated

  • 3 tsp sweet or smoked paprika

  • 2 pinches of saffron threads

  • 2.5 lbs white meat (chicken, rabbit, tukey, pork) bone in but skin off, chopped into small pieces

  • 2/3 cup olive oil

  • 2-3 tbsp sea salt

  1. Wash and prep the ingredients as directed in the list.

  2. Start by heating the middle of the pan on a small element or burner. This will help you control how fast the ingredients cook. Add about half the salt around the edge of the pan and then add the oil to the middle of the pan.

  3. Add the meat and cook all the way through, turning occasionally.

  4. Once the meat is cooked al the way through, add the paprika and garlic. Toss or stir until completely mixed.

  5. Add the grated tomatoes, mix and let simmer. When the tomatoes are reduced by half, add the saffron and the veggies and beans and keep tossing until coated.

  6. Next add the water and place on a large burner, on medium, so the heat is evenly distributed over the entire pan. Let everything simmer until the water reduces by 1/3, leaving 2/3 in the pan. Adjust the seasoning by adding more salt until to your liking.

  7. Evenly distribute the rice and make sure its complete covered by the water i the pan. Let simmer for 12-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: for a crispy rice crust, after the rice is cooked through completely, turn the heat back on high for about 3 - 5 minutes.

Also, you can easily swap the meat for seafood. Simply remove the seafood while the water and veggies simmer to ensure it doesn't overcook, and then add it back when you add the rice.

If you suddenly have an urge to visit Spain, this recipe will give you all the feels and it will cost less to make than a plane ticket to Valencia :) I hope you enjoy and please leave me a comment to let me know if this article was helpful and especially if it inspires you to make paella!


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