You’ve gawped at Gaudi’s works, peeked in the Picasso Museum & rambled down La Rambla. And now you’re hungry. But perhaps you are hoping for something a little more authentic than the pre-packed, frozen paellas offered in many tourist traps. How about learning to cook paella for yourself, in the home of a local teacher? A paella cooking class in Barcelona Spain is the perfect way to sample authentic Spanish food – and take the recipe home to make it yourself!
Marta’s Paella Cooking Class in Barcelona Spain
I am a big fan of EatWith; and a big fan of paella, so I have been waiting for a chance to combine the two, and try Marta’s Famous Paella Cooking Class in Barcelona. One of the most popular hosts on EatWith’s site, Marta was once the 3rd best ‘attraction’ in Barcelona according to TripAdvisor. Until they changed her category to ‘activity’, she explained, grinning about her heady days of TA fame. Despite the challenges with Tripadvisor, most of her students usually find her through TripAdvisor, as she is consistently ranked as one of the best cooking classes in Barcelona. She also has a page on Facebook, ‘Marta amb tu cuinem’ where you can contact her for classes. Today we had all booked our class through the EatWith website.
EatWith Cooking Classes in Barcelona
In case you haven’t heard of EatWith, it is basically like Airbnb for food. Hosts cook dinner for guests in their own homes, from local favourites to international haute cuisine, so there is something for everyone. EatWith started originally with tourists in mind, to help them find an authentic dining experience with local people, it now attracts locals and visitors alike. Although lately the site seems to be leaning towards more professional chefs and pricier options, Marta is refreshingly down to earth, hosting her paella cooking classes in Barcelona in her own apartment near the Arc de Triomf. In Marta’s case, as she prepares paella, the classic Spanish dish, her guests are usually tourists visiting Barcelona, although a couple of long-term residents like me were also at the class.
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Once everyone had arrived Marta welcomed us all with an introduction about herself, and how she began teaching her paella cooking classes here in her native Barcelona. After living in the US for many years, she left her teaching job in the States and returned back home to Barcelona. Unsure of what to do next, she started cooking vegetarian meals and offered a few cooking classes in English, then one of her students asked her how to make paella, so she showed them. Her paella cooking classes grew in popularity and she now makes a living teaching people how to make this spectacular dish, as well as continuing her other vegetarian classes so is a real one-woman cooking school in Barcelona!
What is Paella?
Paella is a traditional Spanish dish, named after the wide, shallow metal dish that it is cooked in – a paella pan. The original paella was made with chicken and rabbit in Valencia, but now seafood paella is most common throughout Spain. You can now also find vegetarian paellas, chicken and chorizo, and other recipes. The key ingredient is rice, which is added to the pan with the already cooked meat and vegetables. Fish or chicken stock is added, and a pinch of saffron gives the rice the beautiful yellow colour.
Although paella originates from Valencia it is well worth sampling while you are in Barcelona, as well as the local version called Fideuà which is made from vermicelli-style noodles instead of rice. Marta has perfected her own recipe for Paella over the years and is quick to mention it is simply her preferred recipe, and that everyone adds their own personal touch.
Preparing the Paella Ingredients
We were each given a recipe to make notes on, and Marta introduced the ingredients one by one, explaining her choices, and what changes we could make & why. Then we all lent a hand chopping peppers, onions, garlic and the rest. All this took place in the living area of the flat, and we actually cooked outside on the terrace, which I’m sure would be beautiful in spring, although a little chilly in December! Marta had bought a purpose-built gas paella barbecue, whose rings perfectly fit her large 16-person paella pan. But of course you don’t need one of those to make paella, a normal hob will do just fine. For a traditional paella though, you really do need the proper paella pan, which cooks the rice evenly, while letting it crisp up a little on the bottom. You can buy paella pans in every large supermarket in Spain, or have a look online.
Cooking and Eating our Paella
And then the cooking began. Everything was done according to the recipe we had been given; frying the prawns, cuttlefish, pork and chicken separately, before starting with the sofrito which would become the base of the paella, then adding in the rice, re-introducing the rest of the ingredients, and the stock. The actually cooking took a lot less time than I had imagined, which was great news as our stomachs were all rumbling by then! When the rice was just tender we began to decorate our paella, returning the prawns and meat carefully to the pan, and creating patterns with the steamed mussels and strips of roasted pepper. It looked amazing, so colourful & bright; bursting with flavours and smells. Finally came the moment we had all been waiting for, and Marta served us one by one our plates of steaming paella. Flavourful rice, juicy prawns and scrumptious clams filled each delicious mouthful.
‘How many paellas have you made in your life?’ I asked her. ‘Oh, definitely more than I can count!’ she laughed. Marta chose not to share the paella with us this time, and with paella cooking classes at least once or twice a week I don’t blame her. But with so much practice and so many happy customers, it’s easy to see how Marta’s paella cooking class in Barcelona really has become famous. I thoroughly enjoyed my class with Marta and left feeling full of food, and inspiration to make paella myself back home. Although cooking on my tiny two ring hob may not be as easy as Marta made it look!
Look for other activities and cooking classes in Barcelona Spain:
Where to Stay in Barcelona
Looking for a hostel in Barcelona? I stayed at Fabrizzio’s Petit Hostel and loved it, and they even had free paella nights if fancy trying some more paella! Read my full review of the best hostel in Barcelona. If Fabrizzio’s isn’t available then there are plenty of other hostels and budget hotels in Barcelona, I recommend using Hostelworld to check prices, read reviews and book your hostel online.
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Tales of a Backpacker is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: May 25, 2018