For many, the traditional Spanish dish known as "Paella" is a favourite meal, and now you can not only experience the unique tastes of coastal Spain right here in the Hunter you can also learn how to make one of the tastiest and most flavoursome dishes in the world.

The home of paella is Valencia in Spain and is said to be the perfect mixture of Spanish and Arabic culture. From humble beginnings, paella was the food of farmers and those working the land. It was cooked in a giant pan over a wood fire and served as a lunch time meal using locally sourced ingredients to add flavour.

(Image right/above : Matt Dilllow of The Verandah Reataurant. Image Credit: Bent Leggett Flashme Photography)


The basis for a good paella is white rice, green vegetables and sofrito (a sauce consisting of garlic, onion, paprika, peppers and tomatoes cooked in olive oil) - after that, it's up to the creative talents of the cook.

The word Paella has a number of different origins – the most romantic of them suggests that the dish was first prepared by a lover for his fiancée and the word is a collaboration of “para ella” (meaning “for her” in Spanish).

As with all dishes created in rural townships, the consistency, ingredients and especially the taste varies from village to village and even household to household. Some say true ''Paella Valencia'' must be cooked outside over a fire made of orange branches, dished up with a boxwood spoon and eaten only at midday.

The one thing we do know is that traditionally paella is made on a Sunday and because women need a day off from cooking it is usually made by the men.

From March to August this year, you can take part in a hands-on paella cooking class and learn how to cook authentic Spanish paella, tasty Spanish churros and of course sangria with local paella expert - Matt Dillow.

Matt is the owner and head chef of The Verandah Restaurant in Pokolbin, a tapas style restaurant strongly influenced by Matt's frequent visits to Spain. Paella fits the ''sharing'' nature of tapas style dining as it is cooked over the stove and often eaten straight from the pan - the perfect communal dish
On the menu is Spanish Iberico Jamon with fresh baked Spanish bread, Spanish paella served with sangria (deadly but delicious Spanish wine punch) and Churros - a Spanish style doughnut, with chocolate dipping sauce.

Buen provecho!

Classes are held on Sundays - March 5, April 23, June 4, 11, 18, 25 and August 6 with classes starting at 9am and finishing at 12.30pm. Cost is $95 pp and bookings are essential. To book please phone 4998 7231 or email bookings@verandahrestaurant.com.au.

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