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El Pueblito de Alfaix

Almeria, Spain

Where did paella come from?

Posted by Luci Ackers on Jun 30, 2017
Where did paella come from?

Ever wondered the origins behind the famous Spanish dish?

The traditional Spanish dish Paella is a filling rice-based meal usually made with pieces of fish or meat and lots of spices in a big pan over an open flame. Though you can now find paella dishes in restaurants across Europe, it is assumed that this traditional dish originated during the Moorish occupation of Spain.

With the introduction of better irrigation during the 10th century, it’s likely that rice production would have boomed throughout the country. The Valencian region, in the south east of Spain, would consequently have produced rice and fish dishes at large family occasions - making use of the warm climate to cook out in the open. It was also very likely a staple dish for religious feasts too: not being acceptable to eat meat during lent, by the 15th century, cooks had combined rice with vegetables and dry fish to create a meal that was appropriate for the occasion.

The custom took off along Spain's eastern coast and the term is thought to derive from the Latin word patella meaning pan or container. By the 19th century Valencians were using 'paelleras', (pans used to cook rice) out in the open during the sorts of gatherings and countryside outings that would have increased along with the standards of living at this time. Originally the main ingredients included meet and beans.

Paella became more and more popular and it was in the 19th century that the word 'paella' was first used in a newspaper to refer to the recipe rather than the pan. Throughout the following century, the popularity of making paella started to spread outside the country and reach other areas in Europe. Valencia’s position on the coast meant people had access to a lot of good seafood to add to their dishes and though the original paella recipe used rice, meat and beans along with saffron and paprika; the most popular form nowadays is seafood paella.

Along the east and south coasts of Spain, you will find it difficult not to encounter a paella restaurant. Right in the south of the country, looking out over the Mediterranean, Almería has a very ecologically rich coast and the villages around there were dedicated to fishing. The market square is just off Paseo de Almería, near the coast and the large covered market sells all sorts of wonders and fresh produce. There's a great choice of restaurants there as well!

It’s such a big part of Spanish culture that you should always try to incorporate a paella into your trip, and if you’re staying at El Pueblito de Alfiax you’ll have the opportunity to see a traditional paella demonstration from a Spanish chef.

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Luci Ackers
Author: Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

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