Think of Spanish food, and pretty much the first thing that pops into your head is paella.
But as you’d expect from such a dish, just like your mum’s spag bol recipe, or dad’s chilli, everyone’s is better than everyone else’s, and everyone else is doing it wrong.
The original is said to be Valencian and rather than the seafood laden vision we’re used to, it was a dish that was distinctly more meaty – and used chicken. Oh, and the word ‘paella’ actually refers to the pan, rather than the dish itself.
Iberica have revisited the traditional paella, sourcing a rice that absorbs liquid but does not dry out and balancing it with the stock in the pan to make a rich flavoured dish that’s distinctly moreish.
How do I know? Well, I went along to try it out.
I’ve long been a fan of Iberica – their chorizo lollipops, the cheese on toast with asparagus and truffle oil, and their bocadillos – especially the traditional Spanish hangover cure featuring squid and aioli on thick toasted baguette – are just divine. And they do them for lunchtime takeaway.
You know, just saying.
Treated to a full explanation from Marco – CEO of Iberica – it seems there is more skill to the paella, than just rice, meat and stock. The quantity of rice, stock and even the paella pan all hold their place in paella perfection.
The traditional Spanish dish involves a small pan with a very thin layer of rice. A rich and full flavoured stock slowly cooks the rice and creates the ‘socarrat’
The soccarat forms on the bottom of the pan from the stock that is not absorbed by the rice. It’s rich – the kind of richness that makes your lips sticky, and the best way to get it is to scrape the bottom of the pan with a spoon and immediately shovel it into your mouth, so it mixes with the rice and vegetables.
Manchester is the first to get the paella on the menu – every restaurant in the Iberica chain is a little different – in both terms of menu and decor, something they’re keen to maintain. As Manchester has a big enough kitchen to be able to create these delicious dishes, we get first dibs. Whether you fancy veggie, meat or seafood, all are on offer and are served between two people. Do be aware that they take slightly longer to cook, but believe me, it’s worth the wait.
And you can always nibble on something else from the menu while you wait.
If you can manage a pudding (*round of applause*), there are two new desserts dishes for you to try. The Crema Catalana Foam features an apple baked in cider and salted caramel ice cream and the (rich but bloody delicious) Tocinillo de Cielo is a custard flan with coconut mousse and mango sorbet.
You can tell which was my favourite.
The paella and the desserts are available on the Manchester menu now – so if you’re looking for a little summer while sitting under grey skies, this might just fit the bill.
Just close your eyes and think of Spain.
With thanks to Iberica for the invitation, and the opportunity to chat with Marco and the team.
I’ll definitely be back soon.