In this article I will answer some of the questions we most often ask ourselves before cooking a good paella, be it paella Valenciana, Vegetable paella, Paella de Marisco or any other.
Among other things, I will give answers to the following frequently asked questions:
- What is a paella?
- What are the basic ingredients of the Paella?
- Which rice you should use for the paella?
- What is the best rice to cook a paella?
- What is the "Sofrito"?
- What are "garrofons"?
- What are "Ñoras"?
- Which gives the paella its yellow colour?
- When to add saffron to the paella?
- When to add paprika to paella?
- Which olive oil should I use for cooking the paella?
What is a paella?
The word Paella has two main meanings, on the one hand it is the round metal container with a shallow bottom and two handles used to cook paella, and on the other hand, and as can be deduced from the previous meaning, the word paella also gives its name to the dish whose main ingredient is rice and which is cooked with other ingredients such as fish, seafood, meat, vegetables or pulses. It is a typical dish in all Spanish regions, although the best known both in Spain and abroad is Paella Valenciana, also known outside Spain as Paella Española.
What are the basic ingredients of the Paella?
A paella can differ in its variety of ingredients from another, depending on whether it is Paella Valenciana, seafood paella, vegetable paella or another recipe, but to cook almost any of the numerous variants, you need the following ingredients always:
- Round grain rice
- "Sofrito" made of vegetables
- Paprika powder from La Vera
- Extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed first pressing
- Ñoras (dried parprika)
What is the best rice for cooking Paella?
Rice is the main ingredient of every paella and therefore it is important to use a quality rice for cooking. First and foremost it should be a round rice, as it takes much better the aromas of ingredients in the paella. There are hundreds of round rice varieties, but we especially recommend those grown in the Valencian Albufera:
Round grain rice
Round rice grown in the ecological environment of the Albufera Natural Park is a great option for cooking all kinds of rice dishes, especially paellas. Its texture, once cooked, is tender and juicy. The regularity of the size of its grains offers a pleasant sensation to the eye and the palate. This rice absorbs a large amount of broth during cooking, but it is easier to cook than Bomba or Albufera rice. It is used in proportions of 2 portions of water for one portion of rice and the cooking time is 15 minutes.
Ecological round grain rice
Organic round rice is grown in the Albufera Natural Park, and is a very versatile rice, recommended for a wide variety of Spanish recipes, especially paellas. Its texture is tender and juicy. It is used in proportions of 2 portions of water for one portion of rice and the cooking time is 15 minutes.
Bomba rice is considered by experts to be of extraordinary culinary quality thanks to the accordion effect it undergoes during cooking, which allows the rice to absorb a lot of flavour, remaining whole and without some grains of rice sticking to others. It is the best possible rice for cooking paella. It is used in proportions of 4 portions of water for one portion of rice and the cooking time is 18 minutes.
Albufera rice is grown exclusively in the Albufera Natural Park, Valencia. It is a recently appeared variety (2016), derived from the natural selection of bomba rice, being its conditions very similar to this one. It is used in proportions of 4 portions of water for one portion of rice and the cooking time is 18 minutes.
What is a "Sofrito de Verduras"?
A good vegetable sofrito is the basis of many recipes, including paellas, stews and casseroles. All these dishes usually begin with the preparation of a sofrito made over a low heat. The sofrito mainly includes tomato, onion, pepper, garlic and depending on the recipe it may also include carrot, courgette and other vegetables. These vegetables are chopped in brunoise and poached over a low heat with extra virgin olive oil, the idea is that the water in the vegetables evaporates slowly while they caramelise little by little.
What are Garrofons?
The garrofon is an essential ingredient for the correct preparation of Valencian Paella. It is a legume similar to a large bean. The Valencian garrofon is different from the rest because it is speckled and stands out for its great capacity to absorb and transmit the flavours to the paella broth and for having a very thin skin and a very creamy texture. About 80 grams of Valencian locust beans are usually used for a Valencian paella for 5 people.
To cook the garrofons properly, they must be left to soak overnight. They are then cooked in plenty of water in a separate container from the paella, removing them from the heat when they are al dente. Finally, they are added to the paella just after the rice has been added.
What are Ñoras?
The ñoras are a type of red pepper with a rounded shape that is left to dry naturally in the sun. They are a typical ingredient in many Levantine Spanish dishes, including paella. They are also known for being one of the ingredients in the sauce of the famous calçots.
Before adding them to our recipes, we must hydrate them in water for a few hours and then remove the seeds and take out the pulp or flesh, which is the part of the ñoras that is really valued in the kitchen.
When will the saffron added to the paella?
Saffron is essential in any paella, providing its elegant aroma and enhancing the flavour of the ingredients, as well as giving paellas their characteristic colour. Saffron should be cooked for a maximum of 20 minutes, which is why it is best to add it after the rice, to ensure that it is not overcooked.
The colour of the paella is typically characteristic of saffron and paprika, giving a natural yellow-orange colour to the rice. If you see a paella with a very intense colour, it is probably because food colouring has been added, specifically tartrazine, which is an artificial colouring that is much cheaper than saffron, but which has major contraindications for use as food.
When should I add paprika powder from La Vera to the Paella?
Paprika, like saffron, adds colour and flavour to paella. In Spain, the highest quality paprika, recognised by experts, is Pimentón de La Vera, which gives paella its delicate smoky flavour. The best time to add the paprika to the paella is just after the rice and before adding the broth, to give the rice a few seconds to absorb the nuances of the paprika.
Which olive oil use for cooking paella?
Always use extra virgin olive oil, especially recommended to use a mild variety, such as: Arbequina. But as in all, it is better not to use too much oil as it can make the paella too heavy digestible.
We hope that we have answered the most important questions you might face before cooking a paella. If you want to deepen the topic, you can read other items on this topic, such as: B. the recipes of the Seafood Paella and the Valencian paella we have already published on our blog.