Why does Nigella Lawson insist on pronouncing paella with an “l” sound? I don’t know. But I do know that (a) the dish should be pronounced in the Spanish manner, something like pie-AY-uh, and (b) that it is one of the favourites in our household.
Aside from the fact that it tastes great, my wife Jan and I love the colours of Spain’s national dish — the yellow of the rice, the reds of the peppers and the paprika (flowing from the chorizo sausage), and the green of the peas that we add. We often have paella for lunch when we feel like brightening our lives on a cloudy or wintry day.
Paella is well-known in this part of France, since Spain is just south of us, across the Pyrenees Mountains, and the dish originated in Valencia on Spain’s eastern (Mediterranean) coast. In fact, if there is a Spanish dish that can be found fairly often in southwest France, it’s paella. At weekly markets throughout the Greater Daglan Area, like Tuesday’s market in nearby Cénac, there is often a stall with a large paella pan set over a gas flame, so that shoppers can take home a serving or two.
Actually, Jan and I prefer to make our own paella at home — and hence this blog posting, with just a couple of pointers that we’ve discovered.
Pointer 1: You may already do this, but Jan recently changed from cooking with long-grain rice to short-grain rice that is meant to be used for making risotto. The arborio rice not only has a nicer texture (we think) but the sauce becomes a bit creamier.
Pointer 2: Some time ago, I ordered paella in the Basque restaurant in Castelnaud, about 10 kilometres from Daglan, and really enjoyed the taste and texture of well-cooked pork along with the usual meats (chicken, chorizo) and seafood (squid rings, shrimp or prawns). So for our most recent batch at home, we added chunks of roasted smoked ham hocks, which we bought (already roasted) at the Carrefour supermarket in Gourdon. Delicious!
Here’s how our pan of paella looked as it cooked on our stove:
And here’s the final result, my plate of mixed paella (that is, including both meats and seafood), prepared for lunch a couple of Sundays ago:
A final note: Did you think that our pan of paella seemed like an awful lot for lunch for just two people? You were right! So we had a nice portion for lunch a couple of Sundays ago; saved another bunch of it in the refrigerator, for lunch on the following Tuesday; and then froze two more batches for meals later on. Are we thrifty, or what?
Tidbit No. 1: When I first posted this (June 1, 2015) the “header” photo at the top was a scene of lunch outdoors at the Michelin-starred Le Vieux Logis. (Since then the header photo has changed, because I try to use a different photo each week.) Anyway, I like the photo of the lunch scene at Le Vieux Logis so much that I’ve decided to show the whole thing, and here it is:
What’s good about it, aside from the obvious star qualities of the people at the table? Well, the beautiful surroundings, the table linen, the staff in the background aching to serve us. So, if you happen to be here during a spell of good weather, and you enjoy fine dining, you must drive to Trémolat and dine at Le Vieux Logis. You’d be a fool not to.
Tidbit No. 2: Speaking of fine dining, Jan and I ate again this past Sunday (May 31) at the Michelin-starred Le Grand Bleu in Sarlat. There were eight of us in total: friends Rosemary and Richard, as well as friends Tish and Bob and their Australian friends Peter and Sue. Four of us had eaten at Le Grand Bleu before, and four people hadn’t. The newbies, I’m happy to say, loved the experience as much as Jan and I do. Peter, for example, raved about the artistic presentation of each dish as it appeared. Do I believe that you will try the restaurant? It would be pretty to think so.