Paella takes its name from 'paella', the Valencian word for pan, and also the dish in which it is cooked. 'La Paellera' is a shallow, circular pan made of polished steel with a flat base and two round handles.
Rice, which was introduced by the Moors during their long occupation of Spain from the 8th century, is a key ingredient of Paella, and for many centuries the peasants of Valencia would use paella pans to cook rice with readily available ingredients from the countryside, including tomatoes, onions and snails. On special occasions, rabbit or duck might be included and the better off could afford chicken.
Different varieties of Paella are now found all over Spain, with each region contributing its unique version. Traditionally, Paella features chicken, duck, rabbit and snails but popular variations include seafood Paella featuring prawns, mussels and clams, plus chicken or rabbit, a little pork and sometimes sausage. When a Paella is cooked, the rice often forms a delicious golden crust on the bottom called socarrat.
Paella is really a Sunday dish eaten when the whole family is together. It is best cooked outside over an open wood fire and this is how it is often done. In Spain, grandmothers can still be found making it in the back garden for the family on special occasions.
The founder of the paella.co.nz website, Jose Luis Fowler (son of Amparo Carpintero-Salgado), learned how to make Paella from chef Maria Victoria Cuenca and her staff while working in a Spanish restaurant in the early 1980s. Jose Luis and his wife Sally moved to New Zealand seventeen years ago and since August 2009; share their passion for Paella with you with Cook at Home Paella and their Pepitos® Restaurants. The Paellas are Jose Luis' interpretation of his mother's family recipe and that of chef Cuenca.