Ask any group of people to name a traditional Spanish dish and, without a doubt, the first thing they will reply is "PAELLA"!
It is worth remembering that most dishes in Spain, owe their origin to specific areas of the country. Traditionally, until not long ago, each region had to make the best out of its own locally grown produce, and paella is no exception. So, when you are told that Paella is a national dish, it may have become that, but in truth it is not correct, for the true origin of paella lies in Valencia. Rice, fresh vegetables, rabbit and chicken are the main ingredients of true paella.
Rice, the most important ingredient, is grown in abundance in the region of Valencia, which also claims a wealth in orchards that provide the inhabitants with fresh vegetables as well as poultry and rabbit that seem to be reared for private use in most households.
By the way, "paella" does not refer to the recipe; it is the name of the pan in which this rice is cooked, in fact Paella in Valencia means frying pan. As a matter of fact it is a round deep frying pan with two handles, for easier lifting. Officially the minimum diameter musty be no less than 30 cms but not too deep. The dish itself is normally referred to by the Spanish as "Arroz", which means rice.
As it is characteristic of the people of Valencia never to agree on anything, it would appear that there is no such thing as an original true list of ingredients. Paella is a people's dish therefore people used whatever they had available in the larder at the time. This varied between artichokes, green beans, peppers, chicken, rabbit or whatever else was available to which some rice would be added and resulting in a tasty daily meal prepared with little cost and served in a common dish from which every one ate, also minimizing the washing up too.
Those families that relied on fishing in order to earn their living, instead of meat, used whatever ingredients the boat brought in on the day.
According to the strictest of Valentian historians, there are two types of Paella:
The true Paella Valenciana, made with chicken or rabbit, tomato, green beans and "garrofÃ³","tabella", "rotjet" y "ferraura" (local beans varieties), paprika peppers, olive oil, saffron (or other colouring with same effect) and the rice, of course. Artichokes and peas are permitted when in season.
Paella de Marisco (Seafood). In addition to the rice, olive oil, tomatoes, paprika and saffron, the other ingredients are seafood such as cuttlefish, calamari, mussels, shrimps, prawns, lobster, crayfish, clams and a stock made with some tiny variety of fish which they call moralla.
Rabbit is quite common in Andalucia and we often see it at the butcher's, but not many of us buy it, probably because we do not know quite how to cook it, yet it makes a most delicious meal. Try the following and find out.
Rabbit in Wine / Conejo al Vino
Ingredients: 1 rabbit, 1 small cup of olive oil, 1/2 litre of wine (Fino de Jerez), some almonds, garlic, parsley, onion, black pepper grains, laurel, small cutting of turmeric, and salt.
Preparation: Preparation: Place the olive oil into an, earthen pot and then onto the fire. Add the garlic cloves, whole but peeled, then cut up the onion, the almonds, parsley, laurel leaf and the rabbit's liver.
When it all seems to brown, remove from the pot use a mortar to mash while the rabbit, cut into pieces is placed in the pot and on the fire to fry it a little. Add the mash to the rabbit on the fire and follow with the wine, the turmeric, pepper and if you wish, some fresh saffron. Let it boil over a slow fire and when tender, season to taste. Serve hot.