Posted on April 16, 2014
During our week living like locals in Barcelona, we decided there was no better way to absorb the culture than to learn to cook from a Catalan. My mom started browsing for options on Trip Advisor and came across Marta’s Paella Cooking Class and knew it would be perfect for us. We called and booked ourselves the afternoon session for the next day.
Marta welcomed us warmly into her home and after introductions were made between all the students (there were 8 of us), we were immediately put to work. She explained that although paella is originally from Valencia, the region to the south of Cataluña, most Spanish families have their own recipes for the rice dish. Paella can seem intimidating on paper, so she loves sharing her simple techniques to make a fantastic pan of the stuff.
We were each given a duty, whether it be chopping garlic and onions or portioning the meat and fish, equally dividing the work so we could all have a hand in the finished product. The quarters were close enough that we could observe what everyone was doing without feeling cramped, and Marta guided us step by step so no one got lost.
Once the prep was done we headed outside onto her beautiful terrace to start cooking. As she called out ingredients we handed them to her, watched them sizzle away in the giant pan and tried to hear her explanation of the process over our grumbling bellies.
The day was sunny and 70 degrees, perfect for an afternoon of cooking on the terrace. Just as the smell began to drive us wild, Marta added the broth to allow the crispy rice to cook and we settled down to chat and await the finish product. Our company included family from Texas and a couple from Japan, making for some really intriguing exchanges. Marta helped us understand Catalan politics, not one to shy away from controversial topics, and we felt so lucky to find ourselves in the home of a local on such a lovely day.
When the paella was ready it was almost too pretty to eat. Marta’s version includes prawns, cuttlefish, mussels, chicken and pork sausage, plus plenty of vegetables, making for an incredibly vibrant dish. We dug in and for the first time there was a lull in conversation; the paella in front of us was so delicious that it made our mouths water even between bites! This is the best paella I’ve had in Spain, and eating it under the sun in a private home made the experience that much more special. If you’re in the neighborhood, skip the touristy spots on La Barceloneta and give Marta a call, she’ll be so happy to feed you.