Dinner Dish: Spain Cooking Class – 5 Tips About Paella

One particular dish you may cook during our Spain cooking vacation, “Cooking in Andalusian Olive Country,” is the famous paella. Here your host Maki talks about the national treasure and five important things to keep in mind when ordering and enjoying paella.

“Paella is something of a national dish of Spain: rice dish cooked on a round flat iron pan with olive oil, full of fish, shellfish, meats and vegetables. Most notably it has a brownish, dull yellow color and a rich aroma.

Discover a paella recipe and learn about paella and wine pairings.

History of Paella

This world-famous dish has a very interesting historical background. The Romans who occupied Spain in the 4th century brought the utensil Paellera to the Iberian Peninsula, and the Arabs then brought in rice in the 7th century; somehow these two cultures met on the pan along with other ingredients of Moorish origin added in, and it turned into the dish that it is now known as paella. So paella is the symbol of the unity and heritage of two important cultures that Spain hosted many centuries ago.

5 Paella Tips

First important lesson is how to distinguish the good paella from the bad.

1) If you see very bright yellow paella, be aware – Why ? It is probably NOT cooked with the real saffron but the yellow food coloring.

2) If paella comes to your table in 10 mins in a restaurant, it was most likely pre-cooked and then re-cooked over the heat or in the oven, or even re-heated in the microwave when ordered.

3) If paella smells fishy, it was probably cooked with frozen fish and shellfish. That is just not authentic.

4) Does the paella seem a little too wet like risotto? Authentic paella should have a brown crusty edge and appear almost dry. This crust also should be found at the bottom of the pan, and this even carries a name: SOCARRAT. This word derives from a Spanish word meaning “to toast lightly.” The tradition is that the socarrat is eaten by the head of the household because it is the best bit of the paella.

5) If paella is served on a stainless steel or enamel pan, it is not very authentic either. Because the word “paella” comes from a utensil known as paellera, which was meant to be used over an open fire, or now the gas ring, and was traditionally made with a thin cast iron that helps to create that delicious socarrat.

Throw a paella party!

It is just so fun to invite friends and family over for a paella party on a lovely sunny afternoon. Even the kids can help putting the ingredients into the paella pan.

The key to make a good paella is the fresh ingredients and patience!  Technically, as you’ll see in a Spain cooking class, it is so simple to cook but a lot of people make the mistake of cutting corners by using stock cube or fake saffron or frozen ingredients.

There are infinite versions of paella recipes. There is no such rule as “you cannot put this in,” but the basic principles and cooking technique need to be applied.

This is why Chef Clive would like to share his knowledge and experiences and teach you all the trick and tips you will find useful so that you will have a stress-free paella party back home. We look forward to welcoming you all very soon!”

Our Andalusia cooking vacation includes five nights accommodations, four hands-on cooking classes with wine, roundtrip transfers, all breakfasts, four traditional lunches, a sherry wine tasting, and cultural excursions to places like the exquisite Moorish Alhambra Palace, among others.

“Dinner dish” is a blog series, where The International Kitchen discusses recipes and the history of particular regional foods. Have a food you want to learn more about? Contact us today!

See another authentic paella recipe from our travels.

By Peg Kern

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