TORONTO – Jamie Oliver’s twist on paella has been panned on social media as an “abomination” and an insult to Spaniards, but the British chef stands by his version of the traditional rice dish.
Oliver caused a furor with a tweet on Tuesday that shared his recipe of the day. “Good Spanish food doesn’t get much better than paella,” he wrote. “My version combines chicken thighs & chorizo.”
Traditional paella is a savoury mixture of rice, vegetables, chicken and shellfish cooked the same way as risotto but with a less starch-releasing rice such as Valencia, according to “A Cook’s Dictionary.” It originated in the coastal Valencia area of Spain.
Paella purists roundly dissed Oliver’s addition of chorizo but the celebrity chef — who was in Toronto on Tuesday to promote his new cookbook “Super Food Family Classics” (HarperCollins) and the companion TV show that will air on Gusto — was unwavering.
“It did say my version. It did say my version,” Oliver said in his defence.
“So, you know, that is my version and I stand by it. It’s damn good.”
But traditionalists begged to differ.
A tweet from who a user identifying as Francesc Alonso read: “Thanks for destroying our most famous recipe. Please, don’t use the word ‘paella’ to describe rice with random stuff.”
And user Mark Sparrow tweeted: “Jamie Oliver angers Spaniards with dodgy paella recipe. To be honest, he does that to most nationalities.”
Oliver, who has travelled to the area where the famous dish originated, said he added the highly seasoned pork sausage to his paella recipe after getting some expert advice.
“That was whispered in my ear by a nonna,” he said.
Oliver added cooks should feel free to experiment with classic recipes.
“Look, I think there’s so much evolution in recipes, whether it’s a risotto or paella or a classic. I mean, you know, if people try and say it’s a classic is that OK? Why is there one hundred recipes that are all slightly different?
“I think it’s good to respond to what’s available in your market.”
He offered his own challenge.
“You know what, you can cook it with or without. Do a vote. Get 1,000 people to vote. See which one they prefer.”
Follow @lois_abraham on Twitter.