PAELLA is a Valencia dish that comes from the old French word paella, meaning pan in English.
Back in the 18th century, the Valencians used to cook their rice outdoors near the orchards of Albufera, and meat from the water vole was one of the ingredients used. A novelist named Vicent Blasco Ibanez wrote about the local fishermen and peasants eating water vole as an important part of their lifestyle.
It wasn’t until a century later that the ingredients changed, as many used rabbit, chicken, duck and even snails! This recipe soon caught on and in 1840 a Spanish newspaper used the word paella to describe this dish cooked in a large pan.
Paella was also a favourite dish to be cooked for Lent, and along the Spanish eastern coast lots of various fish was introduced to the recipes.
In Moorish Spain, rice was cooked in a casserole with fish and so it was said to have married the two cuisines together. Spanish food historian Lourdes March notes that the dish “symbolises the union and heritage of two important cultures, the Roman, which gives us the utensil and the Arab which brought us the basic food of humanity for centuries.”
Traditionally the dish was cooked over an open fire that was fuelled by orange branches and pine cones, which added to the aroma of the paella. Because Valencians are passionate about their traditional dish, they still keep the methods true to cooking the dish, as the rice is never braised in oil. They also let the paella settle for around ten minutes before serving.
During the 20th century, this delicious dish broke across the borders and was being cooked all over Spain. Now paella is the pride of countless chefs throughout the country!