Paella for Cold Days

I will have to eventually complain about the weather. So far I hoped for sunny days. It is the 11th of July and still no sun. Hear me complain: everyone talks about global warming, yet in Brussels all we have lately is rain, rain, more rain. It is July, yet I am wearing a shirt, a sweater, a jacket and a scarf. We have not yet been able to go out and bbq. It feels like winter. 

Now the rant is over, on to more pleasant subjects like the food we cooked recently. Through a turn of events and for a very short period of time, one of us is staying home. That means no late hours in the office, no running to the supermarket for last ingredients, no quickly prepared TV dinners. It means leisurely thinking of food and ingredients, the week menu ahead, the time to actually cook. I know not all the dishes we cook take a lot of time, but cooking when relaxed makes all the difference than cooking after an all day meeting.

Paella. An old and trusted favorite. There always is a certain fiesta feel to paella. Mind you we don’t have the paella pan, but the dish easily adapts to normal frying pans as well. What is different about this particular paella? Nothing much. We followed a true Valencian recipe (as far as you can trust the internet) and got cooking.  What I like about paellas is that they do not take (too) much time, and versatile enough to take ingredients you have around the house. Personally I always make sure that besides the usual (seafood and chicken) I also add chorizo to my paella. I think it gives it that extra kick and spice without overpowering the dish. A good Spanish wine and you are set for a cozy evening indoors, wishing you’d actually be in Spain, outside, complaining about the heat.

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  • A Brussels Nostalgic

    Hola!

    I think you can get paella pans (the “Spanish wok” as I also call it) at a big Spanish supermarket that’s right next to Gare du Midi. Take into account that the real paella pan must not have any non-stick surface, it’s all untreated iron. The point is to make the paella with a little bit of toasted rice at the bottom, which in Valencian (Valencia being the hometown of the paella) is called “socarrat” and is considered as a final authentic touch to the real paella.
    As with all dishes, everyone is free to do as they feel and to prepare the dish in the way they prefer the most. But in my personal Valencian opinion, putting chorizo in the paella is something that I would expect rosy German tourists wearing birkenstocks with white socks to ask for at a random terrace somewhere on the coast of Spain, where the paella would be pretty horrible.

    To make a good paella is no easy task. Besides the ever-important ingredients, I think the key is that the stock in which you will afterwards cook the rice in the paella pan should be very tasty, even excesively tasty, because afterwards it will get smoother when cooking the rice. If the taste of the stock is soft to start off with, the rice will come out pretty dull.

    The pan can be used to make all kinds of different paellas (seafood, chicken, mixed) or also other dishes such as rice with squid ink (that comes out black), mellow rice with lobster (awesome) and fideua, which is basically a paella made with…noodles!
    Also, I believe a paella pan is even a very decorative thing to have hanging around the kitchen. They come in all sizes, some even 20 cm. in diameter!

    Enjoy,

    ABN

  • Oh I feel like such a German tourist now 🙁 , but good to know (I still like my chorizo though).
    Thanks for the tips. Will have to look into them. I particularly like the mellow rice with lobster and the fideau. Do you have a great (original) paella recipe to share? Also any tips on what you’d consider a good worthwhile Spansih restaurant in Brussels? Thanks.

  • ABN

    Hello again!

    You would be a great German tourist 😉

    Actually, the only place in Brussels where I know you can get a pretty decent paella is the restaurant “La Tentacion”, around Ste. Catherine. The place is actually the Galician cultural center of Brussels, but serves food from different Spanish regions. That’s the only place I know, I should know more!
    In case someone is interested, one tip is to consult the regional office of Valencia to the EU institutions. There is a large Spanish inmigrant community in Brussels, but mostly made up of people from the north of Spain. You can find some good Galician and Asturian food, at the mentioned Galician cultural center and at the Asturian one near the Gare du Midi. There you can get a nice “fabada”, a tasty dish made mainly of beans and chorizo, great to have with cider. But it’s quite heavy, so make sure to prepare a place to crash and have a nice siesta!

    Hope this helps and serves to promote Spanish food in Belgium!

  • Kenny Mandel

    I am Mony’s and Dina’s brother and I just looked at your sight and I think it is great. Talk to you soon,

    Kenny