Starters and tapas for paella
When preparing a big meal, it is typical to serve a starter, tapa or snack while the main course is prepared.
Paella is usually served as a single dish, but if you have ever visited a Spanish restaurant or bar you will know that there are starters for paella.
In the same way, in more personal and less formal circles such as family and friends, it is rare that something to drink and snack is not served while talking and laughing with the cook who is preparing the paella.
In this blog post we are going to inform you about some classic starters, accompaniments and snacks from Spain that you can serve to your guests while you prepare your paella, whether for an elegant meal or for the garden of our house, all of them we recommend as starters for paella of meat, as well as for starters for seafood paella.
The starter par excellence, a light salad is a perfect snack while we wait for our paella to be ready to be served, regardless of the season or even the paella to be tasted.
The traditional Valencian salad usually only includes lettuce, tomato, fresh onion, oil, vinegar and salt, although some popular versions also include pickled onion and olives in their repertoire of ingredients.
Who hasn't gone to a restaurant and ordered a plate of clóchinas? These delicacies from the sea enter our mouths like the waves of the sea.
The origin of its cultivation in the Valencian Community dates back to the 19th century, to be more precise, in the year 1890, when the port of Valencia installed the clochinera rafts, frames with braided ropes that reach the seabed, whose sole purpose is to obtain the clochinas. From these bateas the taste for this mollusk spread to the rest of Spain, where it was no, and still is not, anything strange for a family to enjoy them as a snack before tasting a paella.
The difference between the clóchina and the mussel must be taken into account, since the clochina is smaller and has a finer flavor. The ideal season to taste is the months without “R”, May and August, since the harvesting of the punts goes from the full moon in April to the waning moon in August.
Octopus at fair
If we are looking for an intense smoky flavor, pulpo a feira, also popularly referred to as Galician-style octopus, is the starter we are looking for for our seafood paellas.
Today, the dish is served as an appetizer in bars and restaurants throughout Spain, including when one is waiting for their freshly made paella.
The best way to serve this starter is on a flat wooden plate, with a good splash of extra olive oil, paprika sprinkled on top and coarse salt.
Only the legs are cut into slices, it is also usually prepared with some boiled potatoes made with the same water of the octopus, doing so is what gives it the name of Galician-style octopus, placing them as a base on the plate and then the octopus on top. We can use forks or chopsticks to prick, we recommend a loaf of Galician bread to moisten the broth.
Typical dish of the Valencian Community, its name comes from the fact that, to prepare, strip the salted pepper and cod into thin strips.
The origins of this dish are not certain and many accept it as a classic starter of Mediterranean gastronomy that has existed since time immemorial, although people presume that it originates from Holy Week, a religious festival where meat should not be eaten and therefore which is likely where the dish of red peppers from Valencian gardens and salted cod, very common in the Valencian maritime towns, was born. Wherever it originated, this starter is synonymous with Valencian gastronomy, a starter for paella without equal.
The best way to serve this appetizer is to mix all the ingredients so that they can integrate well with the olive oil. From there you can make toast or bread sandwiches.
Common in Valencian restaurants, grilled cuttlefish is an easy-to-prepare starter that is especially appreciated as an appetizer for paellas.
It is in its condiments where we find a little more preparation, this is because a dressing called Mery sauce is usually poured on top of the cuttlefish, made with fresh garlic, parsley, lemon juice, salt and oil, crushed in a ceramic mortar and wooden pestle.
Small but delicious, battered squid are a small seafood delicacy typical in Spanish bars, whether as a tapa or a starter for paellas.
They are usually served on a large plate, accompanied by a lemon wedge. That we squeeze above above above.
If there is a dish that every Spaniard can associate as a starter before a meal, it would be meatballs made of desalted cod, boiled potato, egg, paprika, parsley, and in some maritime towns with a touch of cinnamon.
Typical tapas from the cabin during Holy Marinera Week. They are served on a plate, accompanied with a mortar and pestle with aioli. ( garlic oil)
There is no more classic starter on a Valencian table than a salted board, an assortment of salted products. It is usually composed of tuna mojama, pieces of ling roe and mullet, accompanied by some fried almonds.
Classic of Cabañal, it is commonly served as a tapa in the bars of the area, where it is appreciated and tasted with wines and some titaina.
Whether as a snack in a bar with friends or in a sandwich, battered squid, more popularly known as Roman-style squid, are a perfect starter choice for your paellas.
You can accompany them with mayonnaise, a lemon wedge or a homemade aioli sauce and enjoy between bites.
A starter synonymous with Spanish bar culture, patatas bravas are a very easy-to-make starter that we can prepare in advance of the paella.
The traditional Valencian way of serving them is to add aioli and paprika sprinkled on top of the potatoes. If we want a milder flavor we can use other less strong condiments such as mayonnaise and sometimes ketchup. In the same way, you can try one of their most traditional sauces, salsa brava, the classic Spanish sauce for this starter.
We recommend, like some bars and restaurants that we have tried, to serve your patatas bravas in the most creative way using a small enameled paella pan.
Peanuts and olives
If our paella is among friends and family, one of the easiest and most grateful starters is the ones we can take with our hands without the need for cutlery and there is no greater starter synonymous with this type of meal than a plate of peanuts and olives.
We must keep in mind that how we serve cocoa or what variety of olives we use depends of personal preference: If we talk about peanuts, some prefer unpeeled cocoa or even inside its pod, like peanut of collaret, as for the olives,we accept almost any variety. They can also be served with some fries.
Potato omelette skewers
A dish par excellence for snacks in the garden or more personal parties, potato omelette can be prepared in a short time, making it easy to have a starter ready while the paella cooks.
We recommend a potato omelet, cut into cubes skewered on toothpicks, so there is no need for cutlery. You can also add extra ingredients in its preparation, such as onion.
Another typical recipe for bars and restaurants in Spain alike, garlic prawns are a perfect starter that allows us to prepare for similar paellas, such as a seafood paella or senyoret.
We recommend serving with a loaf of bread to soak up the broth that remains when we have finished eating the prawns.
If what you are looking for is the taste of the sea, you don't have to look any further with anchovies in vinegar, with stuffed olives, this small fish is a highly appreciated starter.
The traditional way of serving anchovies is with vinegar, the same one used to preserve it where it can be picked directly with a fork.
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