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

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

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

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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