Festival Days – National Paella Day in Spain

27th March is National Paella Day in Spain.  I am a big fan of Paella so although I am not Spanish I thought it appropriate to join in.

Paella has come to be regarded as the national dish of Spain but  it originated in Valencia in the north-east of the country.  When the Moors reached Alicante in 718 they discovered a pleasant climate perfect for growing crops that wouldn’t grow in Africa and set about turning this part of the peninsula into an Arab centre of horticultural excellence.

They developed a system of irrigation and exploited the wetlands that were created to grow the rice.  Not just any rice however, not your supermarket economy rice, not Uncle Ben’s ‘boil in a bag’ rice, but ‘arroz bomba’ introduced from the east which has the perfect constituency to produce the dish.

A lot of people make the mistake of assuming Paella is full of fish but this is not the case.  I rarely make a Paella with fish.  I prefer fish and shellfish in a pasta rather than rice..

These days people will add almost any ingredient to a paella but the true Valencian meal is always made of chicken, rabbit and white beans.  Most things work but I have a friend who adds liver and that doesn’t work at all  but then again I have strong culinary views on liver – avoid it at all costs – it tastes offal.

Paella originated, as many traditional dishes do, as peasant food, a lunchtime rice dish prepared by workers in the fields over an open fire.. Always cooked in a round, flat bottomed pan with handles, the dish most likely takes its name from the Latin term ‘patella’,  a flat plate on which offerings were made to the gods. The open flame is essential, as it creates the layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan called ‘socarrat’ that is essential and unique to paella. Delicious!

The best Paella that I have ever had was in a restaurant in the hills above Benidorm in a village called ‘Rincon de Pepe’ where they really nailed the  ‘socarrat, close behind that was in an artisan bar in Barcelona called ‘Petit Xaica’ located just off the busy ‘Las Ramblas’ where the Paella was so good we ate there three nights on the trot, a meat Paella, a fish Paella and a black Paella coloured with squid ink which you really don’t want to spill down your ‘going out‘ shirt.

The worst Paella that I ever had was my friend’s liver Paella but after that was a very disappointing one in a restaurant in Madrid where the chef had tried to be too  clever with it and serve a modern variation of the Valencian classic.  It just didn’t work for me.  Best to keep it simple in my opinion.

Anyway, enough of that, here is mine…

I always start with a good chicken stock, after a Sunday roast I boil up the carcass, add vegetables and seasoning and a saffron packet mix of course and then strip every last piece of meat from the carcass.  Every time I do this I wonder just how much good meat is thrown away after a chicken dinner has been finished.  Scandalous waste in my opinion.  As a rule I leave that overnight to infuse the flavours.

Ingredients – chicken, chorizo and bacon.  Onion, tomato and pepper.  Chicken stock.  Paella rice – no other rice will do.

I haven’t got a proper Paella paellera so I just use a flat bottomed frying pan.  I had one once but it went rusty and it wasn’t so good for use on a ceramic hob.  A bit too aggressive.

When it comes to cooking I start with onions and chorizo, set these aside and then start with the rice, first in olive oil and then the stock, one ladle at a time so that the rice swells evenly.  As it cooks I add the meat, the chicken, the chorizo, bacon and some frozen peas instead of white beans.  Never liver. Never, ever liver.

I would like to try and get the burnt socarrat’ base but that makes a mess in the bottom of the pan and that’s not fair on Kim who has to wash up later so even though you are not supposed to I do give mine a stir now and again.

Just before it is cooked I add sliced red tomatoes and yellow peppers as a topping to recreate the colours of the flag of Spain.  Let it rest for a few minutes and then serve.

I give you my Paella…

March 27th is also the day that my dad Ivan was born.  He would have been ninety-one today.  I am fairly certain that he wouldn’t have liked Paella, he liked traditional food and only had rice in a rice pudding.

I wrote a post about Ivan Here…


47 responses to “Festival Days – National Paella Day in Spain

  1. Happy paella day! Yours looks very good. I have been practising and feel that after 8 years of living here, I can make a fairly good paella. Since I don’t eat meat, I use a vege stock, a splash of white wine and an assortment of vegetables. My guests love it. I also don’t let mine burn on the bottom. I can’t imagine it with (shudder) liver. I love that picture of your dad. A handsome fellow. On March 31, my dad would have been 99.


  2. Paella has many variations, the original is actually from late aunt sofia in El Saler south of Valencia . It is traditional eaten for lunch not dinner. There is a local leyend, Pa’ella is the Spanish short of Para Ella or For Her. The fisherman went out many days and wives took care of home. One day they did a dish for them, and not too good about names, they said well this is for her so para ella or ¨Paella. Buen provecho. Saludos

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Now you’re definitely my pal. I can’t abide to throw away a chicken carcass, and if you use yours to start your paella off, that’s perfect. Have you ever been to the region near Valencia where paella rice is grown, l’Albufera? Add it to your list if not!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy Paella day. This food is so delicious. 😋


  5. That looks and sounds quite tasty, Andrew. And I’m with you 100 % on the liver.


  6. Sounds good, Andrew. Would Dad have enjoyed a paella? Nice way to commemorate him.


  7. Andrew that looks delicious


  8. I like paella too and never ever throw a chicken carcass away until it has been boiled (with a carrot, onion and celery) to create a stock and every usable bit of chicken removed. I do add some fish and prawns to my paella though, but never ever liver (or rabbit).


  9. I had paella in a Valencia restaurant which claimed to serve paella in the traditional way, minimum serving was for two people. When it arrived, it was a large pan of rice and veg (peppers, onions etc) with a whole chicken and a whole rabbit perched on the top, both immediately identifiable as the animal that they once were. It was absolutely delicious but I can imagine that the presentation may have put some people off!


  10. I quite like the idea of cooking with squid ink used for colouring!


  11. I do like paella. I also like your method of making chicken stock. Did WP or a typo spoil your offal pun?


  12. I’m impressed with your Paella!


  13. Oh, and totally agree with stripping a chicken carcass ……yi


  14. Looks delicious. I agree with you about the chicken, easily three meals and then boil the carcass for chicken soup.


  15. Several elderly relatives* of John’s used to go off in a motor home to Spain until they were quite advanced in years. They never took to the food. (Imagine broad Leeds accent) ‘Ooh, John! Paella they call it. It were revOLTing!’ ‘It were revolting’ remains a catchphrase in this house.
    *Also known as the Red Aunts.


  16. While walking the Camino in Spain, we enjoyed paella quite a few times – and it was delicious every time! When we got back from our Camino, we found a typical Camino pan in an outdoor shop and Berto often makes paella on the fire … mostly with chicken (similar to your recipe), but never-never with liver!


  17. Happy Paella day. Seems there are lots of special dishes for this day.

    Liked by 1 person

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