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Spanish Baked Rice
29 March 2018

Rice dishes are one of my favourites, but Valencian oven-baked rice or “Arroz al Horno” when I first came to Spain wasn’t exactly one them until I tasted the real deal. I took a disliking to it mainly because it was often too dry for my liking. However, when I learnt the tricks to get it right, everything changed. It was just a process of practice makes perfect to be honest. There is a fine line between an 'ok' rice and a great rice and I must admit it has taken me several attempts to even get close to a great “Arroz al Horno”, I wouldn’t say I have mastered it by any means but I am on the way. My last attempt went down very well with my Spanish family members. As with all traditional dishes they tend to be a lot of work but fortunately this dish isn’t that time consuming and the result is just fantastic. Valencian cuisine is normally eclipsed by the Paella but this dish is very much part of the Valencian’s staple diet. Traditionally it was prepared with the left overs from the “cocido”, a meat and vegetable stew/broth but nowadays everyone makes it with fresh ingredients. Another of it’s advantages is that it doesn’t make as much mess as a paella when you are cooking indoors!


This dish is cooked in a large flat earthenware dish. If you don’t have one you can also cook it in a non-stick baking pan. However the result is better in an earthenware dish. The ingredients you will need for this recipe are the following:






Ingredients for 4 people :


400g  Round Valencian Rice – the same you use for a paella

300g Pork Ribs chopped up into small pieces

300g “Panceta” (thick cut bacon) chopped up into small pieces.

200g Grated tomato

4 Onion Morcillas ( Spanish black pudding)

1 large tomato cut into thick slices

1 large potato cut into thick slices

300g   Cooked Chickpeas (garbanzos)

1 Whole head of garlic



1 litre approx. Chicken and vegetable stock

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (preferably Picual for frying)



(In Valencia you can buy "Arroz al horno meat packs" already made up in some supermarkets so if you find one you only need to pull together the rest. I like to add an little extra panceta if I buy a pack as they don't normally put much in them)


It looks like a lot of ingredients but it is fairly straight forward so I really encourage you to give it a go. 


The first step is to get the oven on full heat so it starts heating up while you are preparing the rest and start heating the stock. It needs to be almost boiling when you add it to the pan. Add a little saffron to the stock to give it a bit of colour and when the stock is hot add the chickpeas to it to heat them up, keep the stock hot. If you have homemade stock fantastic but the chances are you won't and I didn't, so I used as most people do, a ready made stock from the supermarket.


Grab a frying pan, put in some extra virgin olive oil and start to fry the potatoes slices. They don’t need to be cooked just half cooked and slightly browned. Remove them and place to one side.






Now you need to fry the pork ribs. They need to be really well cooked so they go brown and crispy around the edges. Once the ribs are turning slightly brown pop in the whole garlic with the panceta  until it goes crispy too. You need to put the pancetta in slightly later as it cooks faster than the ribs. Once ready remove it all from the pan and place the meat and the garlic in the earthenware dish.






Take the morcillas and quickly fry them, without cutting them up, in the fat that has been left in the pan, just for a couple of minutes and take them out. You are not cooking them now just sealing them and giving the fat a bit more flavour. The next step is to add the grated tomato to the oil with a teaspoon of paprika and fry it gently in the remaining oil for a minute or two. At this point you need to add the rice to the frying pan to seal it for a minute or so before putting it in the earthenware recipient. This will soak up all the fat and flavour from the pan and is essential for the final result. At this point you need to add the hot stock and the chickpeas to the earthenware dish as quickly as possible, move the ingredients around so they are all evenly in place and put the potato and tomato slices on top. Now place it immediately in the oven on full heat for 20 min (250ºC). During the last five minutes of the cooking time turn on the grill so it browns the top. When it is ready all the stock should have evaporated. Remove it from the oven and let it sit for a five minutes before serving.


As with all rice dishes the amount of stock or water is the key to success. The easiest way to measure the correct amount of rice and the correct amount of stock is to find a coffee cup or a small glass. I have one that holds approximately 100g of rice so I use one cup per person. The rule of thumb is for every cup/glass of rice you will need two cups of stock minus one from the total number. So if you are using 4 cups of rice you would need 7 cups of stock (using the same cup measurement). 


The secret to this recipe is time management and really cooking the meat well. The objective is to get all the ingredients into the oven while they are still hot so the oven doesn’t have to heat them up but starts cooking straight away from the minute it goes in. 

















Now just serve up and enjoy. I accompanied this meal with a fantastic red wine that I bought from Carrefour, ILDVM - Tempranillo Colección Bolumar (€4). I highly recommend it. It is a spectacular red wine for the price. You will be really surprised. Hope you enjoy it!









Like 1        Published at 21:49   Comments (6)

How to Make Chorizo
22 March 2018

From time immemorial the people of Spain have used salt, spices and fresh air to preserve sausages. Over the centuries these skills have been honed to an art, creating a myriad of unique chorizos, salchichones, morcillas and more. Smoked paprika, garlic, cayenne pepper and salt - simple ingredients that, when mixed with pork, create the spectacular Spanish sausages and there is no sausage that is more Spanish than the Chorizo. Although they may seem complicated they are in fact very simple to make yourself at home. Chorizo has always been one of my favourites, especially the hot spicy ones that combine perfectly with a slice of cured manchego cheese and a glass of red wine, an authentic Spanish titbit. Cured meats throughout the Mediterranean were being produced ever since the discovery of salt approximately 3000 years before Christ. However, Chorizo was probably one of the latest in arriving. Chorizo is chorizo thanks to the smoked Paprika, and this ingredient didn’t reach Spain until the XVI century after the Spanish discovered America, up until that time all cured meats were pale in colour or black if they had blood in them. So successful was this spice that it quickly spread all over Europe and Chorizo became one of the most popular cured sausages of the time and still is today.

Chorizo is a typical Spanish sausage cured either by smoke or air, obviously, smoking is more complicated at home unless you happen to have a smoking house in your back yard, but fresh air is more than sufficient. They made with minced meat marinated in spices, of which the most popular is paprika, which gives it a red colour.  The traditional season for homemade chorizo has arrived as the cold weather helps the drying of the sausages.

Homemade Spanish chorizo is normally made with the same ingredients in all provinces with the only difference being in the blend of spices used, which can vary from region to region, the main ingredients for chorizo are determined by the amount of lean pork used. These are guidelines as there must be hundreds of recipes for chorizo around the country and proportions can vary and so can your tastes and preferences.

So as a guide, for each kilo of lean pork we will need to add:

300g of pancetta / uncured bacon

20g of salt

1 clove of garlic – crushed

20g of Paprika

8g Cayenne Pepper (if you want it spicier increase the cayenne pepper and reduce the paprika proportionally to reach 28 grams combined or vice versa)

Pig intestine (available from butchers or some supermarkets)

Cotton string to tie the ends


200ml dry white wine

1 tsp. dried Oregano

Other additions can be parsley, cumin, bay leaf and thyme.

During the chorizo elaboration process at an industrial level, other ingredients are added: ascorbic acid is added to accelerate colouration and to prevent the fat from oxidizing and maturation regulators are added as sweeteners to promote the maturation of the chorizo and speed up the whole process. So if you make it at home at least you know it is completely natural with no additives or preservatives. All you need is patience.

Chorizo can be encased in a wide intestine (chorizo cular) or in a narrow intestine. Its form can vary being straight, “chorizo de vela” or like a horseshoe – “chorizo sarta”, the latter being the most popular form used traditionally.


To prepare chorizo at home you need lean pork such as pork shoulder or a “Boston butt” cut which the high part of the shoulder, the blade shoulder of the pig. The first thing you need to do when making chorizo is to mix the meat thoroughly together with the fatty pancetta/uncured bacon. So this needs to cut up and coarsely minced. You can either get your butcher to do this or you can do it at home with a manual meat mincer. You must bear in mind that the meat to make chorizo needs to be below 4ºC so the consistency is firm and you are able to cut it with a knife; it should also be checked that the temperature of the pancetta/bacon fat is between -2ºC and 2ºC to avoid melting during the mincing, leave the fat in the freezer for approximately 2 hours should be sufficient.


Secondly, when making the sausage at home, add the garlic, previously crushed in a mortar or a garlic crusher, add the salt and paprika/cayenne pepper; you can also incorporate a glass of dry white wine to help to mix and bind everything in together and make sure the mixture is as even as possible, so use your hands to do this. The chorizo mix must be left to stand for 24 hours in a cool place, which is why it's advisable to cover the mixing bowl with cling film or cotton cloths and put it in the fridge until the following day; then, with the help of a sausage filler or just a funnel, fill the intestines with the marinated mixture, trying not to leave air pockets and then tie them off at both ends with thick cotton string.


Finally, the chorizos must be pricked all over with a needle or a similar to remove possible air pockets that could have formed and then they are hung in a cool, dry and airy place leaving enough space between them that the air can reach the whole surface area and they will dry out properly in about three months; after this curing time the weight of the chorizo will have dropped by about 20% of its original weight. An ideal place would be an airy garage where you can hang them from a beam.


It is important to have in mind that the chorizos that are made at home do not contain preservatives, therefore it is important to control the curing of these sausages; the ideal drying conditions are areas with low humidity and cold temperatures, conditions that are perfect for curing meats. If the temperature and the humidity are too high they will not cure. In which case if you do live in a climate that is not very appropriate, you can just cure them for a week in a cool dry place and cook them on the barbecue or grill them. So as you can see its no more difficult than preparing a homemade beef burger. Give it a go!



Like 3        Published at 01:20   Comments (3)

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