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Visit Valencia! - Not just for the paella ...

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April 24, 2013 / Spanish / By
Lynne Fellows

Valencia, Spain ….just the name alone conjures up images of sunshine, blue seas and cloudless skies. But the country has much more to offer than the usual stereotypical mix of 'sun, sand and sangria'. The climate is as diverse as you can imagine, with sunshine on the coasts, skiing in the mountains, lush green countryside and crystal clear seas lapping the shorelines. The cities offer you an eclectic mix of modern and traditional architecture, historical celebrations and fiestas all year round.

Valencia is Spain's third largest city, situated on the Mediterranean coast and enjoys a marvellous climate, said by the World Health Organisation to be one of the healthiest on the planet. The province includes a wealth of activities, from a whole range of sporting facilities, fantastic shopping and intriguing museums, there truly is something for everyone.  

Known as the City of Arts and Sciences, its more recent additions have been the Oceanogràfico (the largest aquarium in Europe), the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (a huge concert hall) and the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum (an innovative centre of interactive science). These stunning constructions were built on an erstwhile riverbed site, but now form an impressive skyline in the centre of the city, in complete contrast with the distinguished medieval structures of other districts. 

But Valencia is also home to another very important Spanish tradition, the Paella, the national dish hails from this region. It takes its name from the pan in which it is cooked and was originally made using beans, chicken and even rabbit.

These days you will often find a different version, as the area is rich in seafood and consequently the fresh fish has found its way into the dish too. At times of festivals and celebrations it is frequently the centre of the event, with a huge pan being cooked over flames to feed all of the revellers.

Las Fallas, Valencia's most famous celebrations take place in March each year and fill five days and nights with varying activities and processions. Large effigies are constructed by the participants, these are generally satirical versions of anyone who has been in the public eye that year, most recently ridiculing politicians and bankers in view of the economic crisis. They are displayed throughout the city, upon bonfires which are then lit at the end of the celebrations amidst the merrymaking of the crowds, entertained by street performers, musicians and fireworks.

Spain is a passionate country in every sense of the word, their thirst for life is infectious, their food and drink are just amazing (3 of the top ten restaurants in the world are in Spain). If you haven't been already, then you really should – you will be most welcome.

Here is one of my fave recipes for paella if you wish to try it for yourself, this is a genuine 'paella valenciana' to serve eight people - Enjoy!

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 (4 pound) whole chicken, cut into 6 pieces

1/2 (2 pound) rabbit, cleaned and cut into pieces

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

1 tomato, finely chopped

1 (15.5 ounce) can butter beans

1/2 (10 ounce) bag frozen green peas

1/2 (10 ounce) bag frozen green beans

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon mild paprika, or to taste

1 pinch saffron threads

Dried thyme to taste 

Dried rosemary to taste

4 cups uncooked white rice, or as needed

Directions

Heat a paella pan over medium-high heat, and coat with olive oil. Add the chicken, rabbit and garlic; cook and stir until nicely browned. Move the browned meat to the sides of the pan, and add the tomato, butter beans, peas, and green beans. Season with paprika, and mix well.

Fill the paella pan almost to the top with water, measuring the water as you put it in. This is to help you to determine how much rice to add, as paella pans come in different sizes. Bring to a boil. Simmer for about 1 hour to make a nice broth.

Season with a generous amount of salt, and just enough saffron to make a nice yellow color. Season with thyme and rosemary if desired. The goal is to make a rich tasting broth that will soak into the rice to make it delicious. Stir in half as much rice as the amount of water in the pan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Serve immediately, maybe with a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of olive oil (your choice) and a nice cold beer or glass of wine (once again, your choice!) 

More recipes can be found in 'Let's Feast - A Spanish Cookbook', available shortly. 

 


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Country: Spain

Province/State: Valenciana

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