How paella got punked – and the Valencian chefs trying to save it

April 3, 2017

Paella is the history of Spain on a plate, so why did aficionados have to start Wikipaella to protect it? In this extract from his new book, Matt Goulding heads for Valencia in search of the perfect dish

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If you look closely enough, you will find the entire history of Spain within the perimeter of a paella pan. Olive oil, the golden film that forms the base of every paella, adding depth and a gentle sheen to the bed of grains, is the story of a hungry ancient Rome expanding its empire across Iberia, one olive tree at a time. Tomato, the heart of the sofrito that lends colour and a savoury-sweet baseline to a proper paella, is the story of Spain’s own vision of empire and conquest, and the unexpected treasures it pillaged from the New World. And the heart of paella – the rice, saffron and vegetables that fill out the pan – speaks of 700 years of Moorish rule leaving a footprint on the Iberian peninsula; one that informs how Spain eats, drinks and lives to this day.

While I walked through the valleys of paella disappointment a few brave souls were righting the wrongs of the rice world

It was decided to solve the question of what is paella … by letting the people who make it most define it

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Upstairs, at Rafael’s side, I watched what I would come to learn as the infallible method of paella valencian

A perfect paella is comprised of a thin layer of rice, no deeper than a pinky, the colour of rusted gold

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