Paella is a culinary odyssey of Morocco’s fish-rich culture and stands as a testament to Morocco’s love affair with fish, commonly enjoyed at beaches and coastal cities, Paella has found its place on Moroccan tables creating moments of pure bliss for locals and visitors alike. The communal aspect of sharing a Paella underscores the importance of food as a social experience in Moroccan culture.
This dish reminds me so much of my dad. I did this today in memory of him (Raheem Allah) may Allah SWT bless him with paradise ameen. My dad spent many years working in Spain before eventually moving to the UK. He was so into his food and loved to cook. He loved Spanish cuisine and culture and brought it back home with him. He taught me many dishes and had so much patience with me. I loved cooking with my dad and I think he enjoyed it too. He taught me this recipe and although I never liked seafood, the smell that would arouse and fill the house when he cooked this was just amazing. My dad used so many different types of seafood on different occasions but today I am just using a pack of calamari, some ready-to-eat muscles and shrimp or prawns.
No one in my household likes this kind of seafood except my eldest daughter, which is why I usually use cod or white fish instead. But today my eldest daughter has turned 19 and got to choose what we had for dinner. And yes, you guessed it, she chose Paella, a good choice if you have been denied the luxury of enjoying seafood regularly!
The Origins of Paella
Paella traces its origins to the coastal regions of Spain, where it has long been a staple dish. Traditionally crafted in a wide, shallow pan, Paella showcases the aromatic blend of saffron-infused rice, vegetables, and a large variety of proteins, often featuring an assortment of pork, chicken and seafood. As this iconic dish made its way across the Mediterranean, it underwent a fascinating transformation in Morocco.
What if you don’t have a Paella Pan?
Spanish Paella is cooked in a big heavy metal pan that looks like a frying pan, this pan is called Paella, which translates to ‘big dish’ in Spanish. Unfortunately, I don’t have one, but neither did my dad!
What he used to do is stir fry all the ingredients in a frying pan and then add the washed raw rice, but before adding the fish stock he would transfer the mixture into a suitable oven-proof dish, then add the stock, cover with foil ora metal lid and place in the oven for about 30 minutes or until rice and seafood is cooked.
Placing it in the oven creates the same crispy grizzly dark rice bottom that Paella is well known and enjoyed for when cooked in a traditional Paella pan. It’s not burned it’s just crispy and well done!
The Moroccan Twist on Paella
Traditional Spanish Paella uses pork, chicken, red meat and fish, however in Morocco, most of the population is Muslim and does not eat pork. Red meat can be pricy for the average working family but fish is available, fresh and more affordable. With Morocco’s extensive coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, it boasts a fish-rich culture deeply ingrained in its culinary traditions. Pialla found a natural home in this seafood paradise, adapting to local tastes and incorporating the bountiful catch of the Moroccan waters. So, in Morocco, Paella has evolved to include mostly seafood and local ingredients. The saffron-infused rice, a hallmark of traditional Paella, is complemented by the rich flavours of Moroccan spices like cumin, paprika, and coriander. The dish often features an array of seafood such as shrimp, calamari, and a variety of local fish, reflecting the coastal diversity of Moroccan waters.
Moroccan Style Paella
- 1 deep oven tray
- 4 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 Large onion diced
- 1 Red pepper diced
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 200 g Prawn and muscle mix mine were ready to eat but if you like the whole shell thing by all means add it, it looks fantastic and adds extra flavour
- 200 g Calamari (squid) sliced into rings
- 2 Large tomatoes peeled and chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic grated
- 1¼ pints Fish stock (made with a stock cube) you can use chicken if you don't have fish
- 1 tsp Saffron or Saffron threads you can use turmeric if you don't have saffron
- 2 cups White rice
- 1 tsp Salt to taste
- 1 tsp Black pepper to taste
- 1 Ginger powder optional
- 1 tsp Dried red chilli flakes optional
- 1½ tsp Sweet paprika
- 1 tsp Crushed cumin
- 1 Lemon juiced
- 1 tsp Crushed coriander seed