A good paella is all about the stock

The paella is a labour of love, a dish that epitomises sharing food around the table, it represents a nation so vividly, España (pronounced Es-pa-n-iiia-a). Put a good paella in the middle of the table and watch the smiles and happiness that goes with it. I have written another blog about paella, but I think I will never tire writing about my favourite dish, that has captured many fond memories of family and friends.

In Spain, paella is an ancestral legacy passed down from generation. Each generation follows the same procedures instinctively. The way the vegetables are prepared, what seafoods or meats to add, but most of all the process of making a good stock. So when in Spain don’t ask what’s in a paella, ask what’s in the stock, you are sure to receive a kind admiration for your knowledge.


A good paella is all about the stock, or when in Spain, fumet, the true foundation of the dish. More time should be dedicated to making the stock, with ingredients that will lift your paella to the heights it deserves. In Spain the quality of water is essential to making a good stock, tradition dictates that only water from Valencia makes a good paella, but it is said that this has no scientific basis. At home, one can use tap water if it’s good, or else filtered water. If your water is very hard and you are a making a seafood paella, add a few drops of white wine vinegar to reduce the hardness.


The amount of liquid depends on the quantity of rice and always add very hot stock to ensure that boiling point is reached almost immediately. The most important thing is never interrupt the cooking of the rice once its under way.

Here is a great stock recipe I would like to share with you, and ideal for four people:

Paella Stock (fumet) recipe

  • 2kg of snapper head and bones, gills removed
  • 2 leek, cut into fine strips
  • 2 carrot, cut into fine strips
  • 2 celery stalk, cut into fine strips
  • 2 small fennel, finely sliced
  • 2 onion, fine sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 dried ñora pepper, stalk removed and seeded, coarsely crumbled
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoon of anise seeds



Thoroughly rinse the fish bones and heads, an arrange a layer in a roasting tray. Sprinkle with a little olive oil, roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a large deep pan, add the leek, carrot, celery, fennel, onions and tomatoes. Gently sauté until it all begins to soften and turns translucent, add garlic, bay leaves, a ñora pepper. Continue cooking until slightly browned; but do not allow to burn.

Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping all the good bits from on the bottom with a wooden spatula. Once the alcohols has evaporated, add the fish head and bones to the pan and fill the pan with cold water. Bring to a boil, make sure to skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently, covered, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the peppercorns and anise seeds in dry pan until fragrant. After 30 minutes add the peppercorns and anise seeds to the pan. Drop the parsley in the pan and cover, let infuse off the heat for about 40 minutes.

Finally carefully strain the stock through fine-mesh sieve and allow to chill in the fridge until needed. Perfect time to call family or friends to tell them, quien quiere paella!




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