The Perfect Paella: A Barcelona Cooking Lesson

The smell of freshly chopped herbs on the cutting board, warm steam billowing from something simmering on the stove top.  Like a choreographed dance the hosts move around the kitchen, hands stretching for ingredients, stepping from one task to another while the others mill around the room with wine glasses in hand, chatting, with the sound of music whispering in the background.  It’s scenes like this that seem to always make for a perfect evening.

Dinner Party

It’s one of the things I miss most since being nomadic.  You can’t entertain and prepare a phenomenal meal when you don’t have a kitchen, but just like any resourceful traveler I’ve gotten around this by finding cooking classes and companies like EatWith that bring you a shared dining experience in a new destination.  It’s a chance to learn about the local food culture, try new things and enjoy a home cooked meal all while meeting new travelers and swapping stories.

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Barcelona Slow Travel invited me into their home to have a night of great conversation, delicious food and a chance to learn more about Barcelona’s local food products and culinary traditions.  Their philosophy on food is spot on.  They believe in letting guests have the opportunity to try local and organic ingredients from small producers and farmers.  It is a great way to integrate responsible tourism by supporting local business AND get a taste of slow travel, finding things off the beaten path and spending some time during you holiday to live more like a local.

These are a specific varietal of tomato you weave through cord and hang in the kitchen.  The outside can get very wrinkled but the inside stays juicy and fresh throughout the winter.
These are a specific varietal of tomato you weave through cord and hang in the kitchen. The outside can get very wrinkled but the inside stays juicy and fresh throughout the winter.

The quality and taste was amazing.  I was happy I came hungry because we had a three course meal ahead of us.  First, we had the chance to have some charcuterie, sampling several local Catalan cheeses and meats.  We also learned the proper way to prepare a simple, yet delicious staple, Catalan tomato bread and alongside we tasted olive oils that came from a farm that is completely self sustainable.  Guillermo and Cristina were both knowledgeable about how everything was produced and where their ingredients come from, answering all of our culinary questions like pros.

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After sampling our appetizers we moved on to our “hard work” for the evening, which entailed prepping for our main dish while sampling some local wines.  It’s great to see several wineries in Catalonia are using organic and bio dynamic practices.

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After the prep work was all completed, we heated up the shallow Paella pan and got cooking.  Making Paella is an art form, you combine the right amount of oil, vegetables, seafood, rice and broth in the perfect mixture.  After covering it and letting the ingredients marry, you later remove the lid revealing a scrumptious, briny, hearty meal.

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So why are the Spanish so mad for Paella?

It’s the country’s national dish for starters and the word Paella is derived from the specific type of pan it’s cooked in.  The diameter of the pan can change, but the height always stays the same so all the rice has contact with the bottom of the dish.  Paella has it’s roots in Valencia and started out as a farmer’s dish, but the love for the family style meal has been taken over throughout most of Spain with varying ingredients depending upon the location.

Photo Courtesy of Barcelona Slow Travel
Photo Courtesy of Barcelona Slow Travel

Truly a great evening and for just a moment, you feel like you are over at a friends house after work for dinner, forgetting that you’re here as a visitor and then just like that, Barcelona begins to feel like home.  Thanks to Barcelona Slow Travel for helping me make my first (of many) Paellas and for opening your home to us, sharing your love of food & your city!

 

No Comments

  1. Reply
    Mary Walto

    Wonderful story and great pictures. We enjoyed some of the tomato bread while we were there as well.
    So simple yet so wonderful.

  2. Reply
    Guillermo

    Great time, great pictures, great article! We hope to see you soon again Abbie. Take care and all the best from Barcelona, Guillermo.

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