March 25, 2016

Valencian Paella

I remember the look on my mothers face when I told her I was buying a one-way plane ticket to England. Did I have anywhere to stay? What was I going to do there? How would I find work? I didn't have any answers to these questions, and deep down inside I was terrified (although I would have never admitted it at the time). I knew it was something that I needed to do.

A year prior I had packed everything I owned into a truck and drove to London Ontario, where I enrolled in University. I had just ended a serious relationship and it was the first time in years that I had been alone. It was during that first summer at school that I told myself I needed to go out into the world and experience it on my own. No boyfriend, no friends, no family. Just me and a backpack. I was in desperate need to let go of all my fears and reservations and just go (I had also been dealing with some serious anxiety). My mother was terrified, so she arranged my father's cousin's wife brother to pick me up at the airport. Once I arrived, rushing with adrenaline, he was waiting in the airport with a sign that said my name. It was perfect. He brought me to his flat in London, where I spent the next few days eating nothing but fish and chips. By choice. As cushy as it was, I was eager to find work and meet up with some people my own age. I found an ad in the local paper looking for wait staff at the Skiddaw Hotel in Keswick- meals and accommodation provided. I rang them up and they hired me on the spot. I spent the next three months living in the Lake District and having the time of my life.

At the end of the summer, I decided to take a month and travel through Spain before returning home. I flew from New Castle to Barcelona, without any plans or anywhere to stay. I thought I would just wing it, that strategy had worked for me so far. Unfortunately, Spain is bananas during the month of August, and there was absolutely no hostels with any availability for 2 weeks. I wasn't going to spend every penny I earned that summer on swanky accommodations, so I took a bus to a campground outside of the city and set up my tent for the night to regroup. Seriously, I can't believe I used to backpack with a tent. And I can't believe how many times I actually used it. The next day I rented a car, which was surprisingly cheap, and I drove to the Pyrenees. I spent the next 2-weeks hiking across the Pyrenees solo. Each night, I either found a campground or slept in my car, woke the next morning to complete another 9-hour hike. I survived off of nothing but boxed sangria, canned tuna, and chocolate croissants. I spoke to a handful of people for the whole two weeks, and by the end, found myself to be a pretty good companion. I dealt with some demons that had been lingering and finally excepted that it was ok to be alone. It was one of the most exhilarating and freeing experiences of my life. Despite that, by the time I had made my way back to Barcelona, I was starving for human interaction and food. Literally, I was emaciated.

I found a fun group of people at the hostel, and stuck to them like a jellyfish. Each night would begin around 8pm, when we would head to one of the many amazing restaurants in Barcelona to share pitchers of sangria and plates of paella. We would dance all night long, in the bars, on the streets, on the beach. Someone in our group had some inside connections with some locals, and each night we would take the train to some remote area of the city, and as we were walking down the alley, we would turn a corner and the biggest street party would appear. Locals serving sangria and paella from their front doors.

I have such a fond association with paella. It brings back so many memories of that summer abroad. That's why I was super excited when the Culinary Collective approached me to see if I was interested in participating in their virtual paella party this month, with National Paella Day being March 27th! Since my time in Barcelona, I've only had paella a few times but never attempted to make it at home, mostly because I thought it was a very labour intensive dish, and I don't own a paella pan.

The Culinary Collective was kind enough to send me one of their paella kits to help me with the process. The paella kit included 1) Matiz Paella Rice, which is a traditional short grain rice from the region of Valencia in Spain, 2) Aneto Paella Base, which is an all-natural broth made from fresh whole vegetables, meats and saffron that has been slow-cooked for hours, producing a rich and flavorful base for paellas and stews, 3) Matiz Organic Piquillo Peppers, which are grown and roasted in the area in Spain where piquillos originated, and 4) a paella pan of course. Since receiving this kit, I've become a little obsessed with making paella. It is such a fun meal for a small group of people or for a party. I'm thinking about throwing a few backyard parties this summer, and cooking up a big pan of paella for my friends, and of course, a few pitchers of sangria to go with.

The Culinary Collective has been kind enough to give away one Paella Kit to a lucky reader. All you have to do is:

1. Comment below and tell me your favorite experience with paella.

2. (2 additional entries) Become of fan of the Matiz and Aneto facebook pages.

The winner will be announced 3/30/16.

Contest now closed.

The winner of the paella kit is Miruska Milanovic. "Last May my sister and I took my dad to Spain for his 73rd birthday. He is a huge fan of flamenco so we thought it would be very fitting to go there for 3 weeks, enjoy great food and music. Of course, paella had to be part of the celebration. We travelled to Barcelona, Seville, Granada and Madrid, with additional day trips from each city. We tried paella in every one of these cities as it's a great sharing dish. We ate our weight in paella. Great memories. My dad loved that trip."

I'd like to thank Culinary Collective for sponsoring this post. For more Spanish recipes visit If you would like to purchase a paella kit, they are available online at

serves 5 people
prep time: 10 minutes
cooking time: 35 minutes

2 tbsp olive oil
7 oz vegetarian sausage, sliced
8 oz large shrimp peeled, raw or frozen
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed
1 1/2 cups Matiz Paella Rice
1 box (1 litre) Aneto Valencian Paella Cooking Base
10 large green olives
1 cup artichoke hearts
5 Matiz Piquillo Peppers, sliced
In a 13-inch paella pan, heat the olive oil on medium.

Add the vegetarian sausage and shrimp and fry until the sausage is browned. Remove from the pan and set to the side.

Add the green beans to the paella pan and sautee for a few minutes.

Add the rice and stir for a few minutes until lightly browned.

Pour the Valencian Cooking Base into the pan, but do not stir.

Once it begins to bubble, arrange the sausage, shrimp, olives, artichoke hearts, and peppers around the pan.

Let it simmer until the liquid has completely absorbed. Do not stir. This allows a brown crust to form on the bottom of the pan called socoratt.

Serve warm.


  1. Ahh!!! I lived in Valencia for 6 months last year, so I am very well associated with their famous paella! I lived with a host family for a bit while I was there, and my host mother made the BEST Valencian paella with all of the traditional fixings- lamb, chicken, green beens, white beans- yumm! If I wasn't stuffing my face with the flavorful rice dish at her flat, I was down the street at La Riua, which definitely has the best seafood paella in all of Valencia. :)

  2. sounds like you had such a wonderful time exploring and learning to be yourself. i wish thats one thing i had done when i was younger.....and paella kit - i need to know more about this.

  3. Mmm, paella! I haven't had the good fortune to be to Spain. There is, however, a very good little paella place about 30 minutes from us. We got the seafood paella, which included escargot--which I tried! (I ate a few, but the texture weirded me out a bit.) It was lovely--we were outside with candles, a pitcher of sangria, and an enormous delicious paella.

  4. You have NO IDEA how much I loved reading this post!! First, paella holds a very special place in my heart - being portuguese and all, with Spain just next door, despite the fact we have had a standing "feud" with our neighbours for centuries eheh - because it was the dish we served on our wedding, cooked by our own selves. Second, because at a certain point in my youth, and after a break up from my first long time and serious relationship, I felt the need to be as far away from my comfort zone as possible and moved to the UK to live and work!! I related to your words so much, it reminded me of those times, of realizing I quite liked my own company, and it prepared me for being on my own, for being able to depend upon my own person and not others to feel grounded and motivated and entertained, even. I really loved this.

  5. I have actually never had paella! Terrible I know! I have been wanting to give it a try! Yours looks and sounds amazing!

  6. I am a fan of Matiz on FB

  7. I am a fan of Aneto on FB

  8. I've only made this at home, but I love making it! I don't have a paella pan, but have always wanted one. I would love to try this kit!

  9. My fondest recollection of eating paella was on the beach in Nerja, Spain. There's a little hut called Ayo's. Every day at 12 noon he serves an all-you can-eat paella, cooked with the freshest seafood over an open fire. With a big jug of Sangria, the beach, and warm sunshine I had all I ever needed. Loved reading your story.

  10. I've only experienced Disney versions of paella. (Don't laugh too hard there😂) I liked it but know the authentic version would blow it out of the water. I love to cook and would LOVE to try to make this myself.

  11. I became fans of Matiz and Aneto on facebook.

  12. This paella looks amazingly good!

  13. What a great post! Love your travel story :). Paella is one of those things you try once and you spend the rest of your life on a quest to eat or recreate that amazing memory of a perfect meal on a perfect evening. It would be epic to make a paella with the real stuuf!

  14. the only time i've had paella was in Madrid while studying abroad! it was absolutely amazing! i would love to have it again :)

  15. Last May my sister and I took my dad to Spain for his 73rd birthday. He is a huge fan of flamenco so we thought it would be very fitting to go there for 3 weeks, enjoy great food and music. Of course, paella had to be part of the celebration. We travelled to Barcelona, Seville, Granada and Madrid, with additional day trips from each city. We tried paella in every one of these cities as it's a great sharing dish. We ate our weight in paella. Great memories. My dad loved that trip.

  16. I've never had paella...must get to Spain.

  17. I have actually never had paella! I just ran across PaellaWorks in our local monthly street market and am now obsessed. It's very fortuitous that National Paella Day was yesterday :)

  18. I am fans of Matiz and Aneto on Facebook

  19. Yes, Spain was a very interesting place for me at least--my sister and I got lost in the middle of the city on the second day! Let's just say that it was freezing cold and we couldn't contact our parents for hours until we walked back to our hotel! But we did celebrate with a big bowl of paella for dinner. We got sick of it FAST once we'd have paella almost every single night, haha!

  20. i'm a fan of flourishingfoodie on facebook. this is good food blog

  21. Looks yummy...and Colorful. Cannot wait to try this! Very nice images... loved it.

  22. Wow, I love this. I will have to bookmark this so I can try it in the future. I hope it doesn't contain too much gas...