The paella might now have become something of a universal dish at culinary gatherings around the world, but its spiritual home remains in Valencia. Just try to suggest otherwise to a friend or colleague from the region!
As one of the Valencian region’s three provinces (together with Castellón and Valencia), Alicante shares the paella limelight, and local authorities made sure the city played its traditional part for World Paella Day on 20 September (see recipe below).
The commemorative day was created by the Valencia region as “a recognition of the most universal dish in Spanish gastronomy. A day on which Valencians share our great dish with the rest of the world, to celebrate – beyond recipes and ingredients – the paella’s internationality. A meal of humble Valencian origins that has transcended all borders.”
According to the World Paella Day website, “paella” generates eight million yearly searches on the internet, “making it the fourth most important dish on the planet”.
This year, a total of 38 cities in 27 countries were involved in the global celebrations, albeit with a more non-presencial and online focus due to the current coronavirus restrictions.
One of the main international initiatives was the inaugural World Paella Day Cup, held in Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium and involving “matches” between chefs from eight countries: Australia, China, France, Italy, Japan, Romania, Spain and the United States.
Fittingly, the winner was from Valencia. In the final, Chabe Soler (La Ferrera restaurant) beat Italy’s Mateus Coelho (Albufera restaurant). Later, she said, “For me, paella is much more than a dish. It is about togetherness, meeting up with friends and the family.”
Rice with Monkfish and Red Prawn
Locally in Alicante, the city hall shared another online recipe for home chefs to dazzle their dining guests with: rice with monkfish and red prawn…
Ingredients (four people):
- Olive oil
- 400 gr “bomba” rice
- Salmorreta (sauce)
- 300 gr monkfish
- 16 medium-sized red prawns
- 100 gr “green” garlic
- 2.5 lt fish stock
- Prawn head allioli (garlic mayonnaise)
Chop the monkfish tail into medium-sized dices to add to the rice, and cut several slices from the widest part of the monkfish. Very lightly fry these slices with olive oil in the paella pan and set them aside to decorate when later serving the rice.
Briefly sauté the rest of the monkfish in the paella pan over a low heat, then remove it to add to the rice in the last five minutes, thus ensuring the rice will take on all the flavour and the monkfish will remain tasty. Do the same with the peeled prawn tails.
Squeeze the raw fresh prawn heads to extract all their juice and use this to prepare an allioli with garlic confit and raw extra virgin olive oil. Set the mix aside to add it to the rice once it is ready. Briefly sauté the squeezed prawn heads and prawn skin in the paella pan to add more taste, then set them aside.
Sauté the chopped green (or young) garlic over a low heat, being careful not to burn it. Add a tablespoon of salmorreta and 2.5 litres of fish stock, and – when it comes to the boil – add the rice, “sprinkling” it so that it will be evenly distributed. Add salt and let it cook for a total of 17 minutes – the first three over a high heat and the rest of the time over a medium heat.
When only five minutes are left, add the diced monkfish, prawn tails (already sautéed) and saffron strands previously hydrated in a glass with a little paella stock. Then place the paella pan into the oven at 180ºC to cook through and to prevent it from getting stuck or burnt.
When 17 minutes have elapsed, take it out and, if you want to give it a socarrat (slightly burnt) touch, place the paella pan back on a very strong heat for a few seconds.
This year Alicante has been promoting itself as the “City of Rice”, to highlight the value of the city’s gastronomic traditions – as well as other activities.