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IAN & SPAIN

WELCOME TO MY BLOG. HAVING LIVED IN SPAIN FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS I HAVE TRULY MANAGED TO IMMERSE MYSELF IN THE LOCAL CULTURE AND FEEL TOTALLY INTEGRATED. I WILL BE WRITING ABOUT MY PASSION FOR SPANISH FOOD AND DRINK AS WELL AS ITS CULTURE, PEOPLE AND PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A COMMENT.

Squid Rings - Calamares - The perfect Tapas and how to prepare them
28 July 2020

I don't know about you, but I am really picky with my Calamares, and I mean really picky. I won't eat them if they are battered, greasy, soggy or tough. In fact, unless they are spot on, I won't eat them. My wife gets all anxious every time I order Calamares (deep fried squid rings) in a bar because she knows the score. As soon as they are placed on the table she can see in my face if I'm going to eat them or not. Basically, if they are battered or reflect the light, I'm not eating them. 

I´m a huge fan of Spanish tapas and Calamares are one of my favourites. But I must admit it took several years to get round to eating them as my first few experiences with Calamares was absolutely terrible; tough, greasy and tasteless. So I pretty much scrapped them from my menu. But it was in a restaurant in Valencia where I developed almost an addiction for Calamares. I tried them again and I was hooked once and for all. They were perfect and became my benchmark Calamares. The restaurant was Marisqueria Cervera and everything about them was ideal. They were not battered but fried in flour. They were dry and incredibly crispy but not at all heavy. The coating was perfect and of course, they were about as tender as they can be. The perfect tapas. If you ever happen to be in Valencia you must pay them a visit.  http://www.marisqueriascivera.com 

Once you have tried Calamares this good it makes it difficult to enjoy Calamares in other establishments, but I never give up. They are my tapas of choice with a cold beer before lunch. If you have read any of my other posts you will know I like cooking, so naturally, I went on a quest to learn how to make the perfect Calamares and that is exactly what I am going to share with you.

To be quite honest it is really simple but as always the fresher the calamari/squid the better. However, it is not always possible to get really fresh squid so a lot of the time you will not be impressed by the result as they turn out tough and chewy. That said there is a trick of the trade that is used by many restaurants to ensure their calamares are tender to the bite. And lone behold it is milk.

Milk has long been used as a tenderiser for meats but it also works wonders with squid, only, it is essential to add salt to the milk so that the squid absorbs the milk and thus softens the texture and collagen.  The amount of salt is approximately half a teaspoon for every 400ml of whole fat milk. The amount of milk necessary will be half the weight of the calamari. So if you have 800 grams of calamari - 400 ml of whole fat milk and 1/2 teaspoon of salt - once mixed place them in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight. If you can get them fresh from the fish market, great you can jump this step, but in the supermarket, they are almost all defrosted squid. When you have your squid, clean them, discard the head and the innards and remove the spinal bone, which just slides out.  Then cut up the squid into rings about 1cm in width.  The add them to the milk.

Once tenderised, drain the milk and let them sit in a sieve for about 30 minutes until they have completely drained and come up to room temperature. Dry them with kitchen paper towels to remove excess liquid and then cover them with wheat flour - 'harina de trigo' which is special for frying - it is not as fine as other flours.  The one I use is HARIN. Make sure they are covered in abundant flour, so don't put too many in the flour at once. 

 

Make sure you have a deep fat fryer or a deep frying pan with abundant extra virgin olive oil. When it is at 170ºC or on the point of smoking you are ready to go - you can use bread to test the temperature - drop in a little bit and observe the colour it turns - it should go golden very quickly.

 

 

Just before you put them in, squeeze the squid and the flour firmly with your hands and then place in the hot oil. Don't put too many in at once, make sure they have room to move around and aren't on top of each other. Let them go golden crisp and take them out, let then drain properly and then place them on kitchen paper to dry.  Ideally, a frying basket is the best tool for this job.  Once dry they are ready to eat. Either as they are or with lemon or mayonnaise. Perhaps even in a crusty roll if you want to make more of a meal out of it. Absolutely delicious too.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Like 2        Published at 22:18   Comments (10)


Cecina - Spanish Cured Beef... a tasty alternative
21 July 2020

Although Spain is famous for its "Jamón" or cured ham, which in my opinion is the best in the world, there is also another cured meat speciality which is not as well known and as equally exquisite.
 
"Cecina" from León can be defined as a smoked dried and salted beef, which in a similar way to ham is taken from the the hind leg. The outer part of the Cecina has a toasted brownish colour which is caused by part of the elaboration process. It is similar to the Italian Bresaola.
 
 
 
 
The Cecina is a delicacy with a millennial tradition and even though it is a product which is very well known in Northern Spain, there are endless written references about Cecina going right back to it's origin. The word “Cecina” comes from the latin "siccus", which means "dry". Even in the IV century before Christ, in the Agricultural Treaty 55 by Lucio Julio Moderato Columela, a friend of Seneca, there is a description of the manufacturing process of the dried beef “Cecina”, which recommends that it should be cured during the last quarter of the moon, especially during the winter solstice. In the XVI century, "El lazarillo de Tormes" is published, a picaresque novel, where there is also a reference to the dried beef Cecina. It was also present in the discovery of America, since it was on the list of the supplies taken aboard the caravel Santa María, together with other salted meats.
 
Cecina, when it is cut, is a cherry-maroon colour, increasingly getting darker towards the edges as the maturing process advances. Similar to Iberian Ham, and if it should present some light fatty embedded seams running through the meat, which gives the Cecina that juicy flavour. It´s a meat with a characteristic flavour, lightly salted and with a fine fibrous consistency. 
 
 
 
Every piece  of meat is identified individually and is perfectly controlled at all times throughout the processing. When the meat is received it is weighed and analysed and if the weight, fat and other essential requirements are met following the guidelines of the Ruling Council, the meat will be labeled and stamped with the Designation of Protected Origin to guarantee it's quality before being sent off for curing.
 
After a minimum time of seven months, required for the whole manufacturing process, each piece of meat must pass the organoleptic and physical-chemical controls carried out by the Regulating Council before it can be finally certified and given the definitive quality label of guarantee.
 
If the product is put into circulation in portions or in slices which are vacuum-packed, the quality label will be visible on the packing together with a reference number which will inform you from which piece those portions or slices come from.
 
Cecina from León, as its name clarifies, can only be manufactured by producers within the province of León. The average altitude of the province of León (1500 m) together with a mediterranean continental climate and long winters with an average temperature of 2ºC and relatively low humidity followed by springs and autumns with a lot of rain, bring together the ideal climatic conditions for manufacturing Cecina.
 
The climate makes possible the slow process of drying out the meat, helping to get that peculiar aroma and taste that is characteristic. Only free-grazing local breeds are used to make this cured meat.
 
The process of manufacturing Cecina consists of a  highly controlled process of transformation from the original cut to the final product.  The aromatic and flavour characteristics will mature thanks to a biochemical and microbiological processes which occurs inside the meat. The processing is made up of different stages:
 
Shaping: the cuts are given the correct shape
 
Salting: the cuts are covered with coarse grain sea salt. This helps with the dehydration, the development of the aroma and perfect preservation. The time spent salting lasts approximately 12 hours per kg of meat and it´s done at 2-5 ºC and with a relative humidity of 85%.
 
Washing: The cuts are washed with luke-warm or tepid drinking water in order to eliminate all excess salt..
Resting: It usually rests from 30 to 45 days. This eliminates excess water and makes the salt penetrate equally helping to develop the characteristic microflora.
 
Smoking: Oak and Holm oak wood is used. This phase lasts between 12 and 16 days.
 
Drying and hardening/curing: This takes place in natural drying rooms or areas until the maturing is complete; the temperature (close to 11ºC) as well as the humidity (75-80%) is always regulated and controlled.
 
Cecina can be eaten as any other cured meat, on its own or with a drizzle of olive oil and shaved "Viejo Manchego" cheese as you would a carpaccio with parmasan. You can use it as an ingredient in a whole list of recipes, it is absolutely divine and a wonderful alternative to Serrano or Iberian Ham if you fancy a change, for example you can use it to make a Pan Catalana or better said a Pan Leonese.
 
I thought I would share this wonderfully simple and tasty recipe with you, a classic but with a taste of León. Similar to the traditional bacon and eggs but with a Mediterranean touch and lot less fat!
 
 
//  Poached egg with crispy smoked Cecina from Leon and EVOO-Fried bread //
 
              
 
The first step is to make the crispy Cecina. Cut the Cecina into strips the size of streaky bacon and then crisp them. This can be done either in the oven at 180ºC for about 12 minutes or in the microwave (1000W) for about 2 minutes.
 
The next step is to prepare the poached egg and the EVOO-Fried Bread.  Fill a pot with water and heat it up until boiling,  now we want to prepare the eggs. A way I love to prepare poached eggs is by using "cling film", it makes for an almost perfectly shaped egg and avoids loosing flavour and egg white because of the water. Take a square of cling film and stretch it out on the work top, brush the inner surface of it with a little olive oil and introduce the cling film into a small glass (as in the photo),
 
     
 
 
now just pop in the egg, season with a little pepper and close the cling film and tie it up tightly into a little sack with a piece of string. Now it is ready to pop into the water.
 
But before that start heating up a non- stick frying pan, take a slice of country bread or the bottom slice of a baguette (cutting horizontally) and generously baste both side with a good fruity extra virgin olive oil. 
 
Make sure the the water is boiling and the pan is hot, pop the egg into the water for 3 minutes, while the egg is cooking pop the bread into the frying pan and toast it in the pan on both side pressing down the bread with a spatula to remove the air in the bread. You will be left with a lovely crunchy fried olive oil bread, yes fried bread, but a healthy one!
 
After 3 minutes remove the egg sack from the water and carefully open it up, it should look like the egg in the photo! The white should be cooked but the yolk should be totally liquid.
 
 
 
 
Place the bread on a plate, create a Cecina lattice with the crispy strips on top of the bread and then finally place the egg on top. Listo and ready to serve. Enjoy!
 


Like 0        Published at 21:15   Comments (3)


An After-Dinner Shot!
14 July 2020

Ponche Caballero is unique, a genuine Spanish liqueur made from a secret recipe over 180 years old. Amber and bright in colour. Aromas of orange and vanilla, with hints of spice and almond notes. A sweet and intense flavour… makes Ponche Caballero a unique and delightful liquor.

It was one of the first drinks I discovered when I landed in Spain. At the time the local craze was to mix 70% Ponche Caballero with 30% lime cordial in a  shot glass, and I must admit they went down very well. The wonderful blend of sweet and bitter with spices and sour lime created an explosion of flavour which was quite addictive. They used to call it ‘Pica-Pica’. It went down very well after dinner!

Ponche Caballero is made with natural products imported traditionally through El Puerto de Santa María from all over the world. Ingredients from Andalusia to Mexico, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Madagascar combine to make up the key botanicals that form the secret recipe of this iconic Spanish drink:


Orange peel
The peel of the best Andalusian oranges gives us the perfect combination of sweetness and refreshing acidity.


Cinnamon
Collected in Sri Lanka, its sweet and heady fragrance made it as esteemed as gold in ancient China.


Vanilla
Arriving from Mexico since the beginning of the sixteenth century when discovered by the Spanish conquerors, vanilla offers a subtle flavour and an unmistakable aroma.

Clove
Original from Madagascar, cloves contribute to a pleasant aroma and slightly spicy flavour.


Nutmeg
This spicy and aphrodisiac fruit is imported from the Moluccas Islands (Indonesia), adding a sweet and mild flavour.

 

Ponche, which is the Spanish word for Punch, is original from ancient Persia, where a similar drink was elaborated. It was called “panj” – meaning five – in reference to the number of ingredients used: brandy, sugar, lemon, water and tea.

Through India, the Punch then got into the hands of the East India Company, who introduced it to the British colonies in the early seventeenth century.

 

 

During the eighteenth century, Punch consumption spread throughout the Western world and its recipe was adjusted to local tastes in each country, varying the type of alcohol and spices used in its elaboration. Punch quickly established itself as a drink for celebrations and special occasions.

In 1830 Ponche Caballero was born. José Caballero, coming from Galicia, started to blend the traditional northern “queimadas” (a homemade liqueur using maceration of botanicals) with liquors from southern Spain in El Puerto de Santa María, developing the secret recipe that is maintained until today.

In 1917 the punch of the Caballero family was becoming well known, despite that, in the beginning, it was only conceived for family and friends. They soon started to bottle small quantities to meet local demand.

From 1943 Ponche Caballero started to spread throughout the Spanish geography. The bottles are wrapped manually in silver paper, as a tribute to the traditional silver punch bowls, the reason why the bottle is still silver to this day.

 

 

In 1969 Ponche Caballero introduced the first metallic spirit bottle in the world, a technological and industrial process that was never seen before and that has been imitated since by many others. The Ponche Caballero silver bottle has become an icon in Spain.

By 1990 Ponche Caballero had become the best-selling liqueur in Spain and ranked amongst the Top 10 worldwide. Today Ponche Caballero is enjoyed in over 30 countries 

On the rocks with a slice of orange, combined with soft drinks or in the form of sophisticated cocktails, there are so many combinations to choose from. Why not discover yours…? Whatever you do, you can always start with a  Pica Pica…



Like 0        Published at 18:29   Comments (2)


Clams for starters!
07 July 2020

 

Although Clams in 'Salsa Verde' (green sauce) are traditionally eaten as a special dish up north in Galicia for Christmas, they are eaten throughout the year and are a wonderful starter to share with friends and family any time of the year. As is the case with most traditional recipes the quality of the ingredients is the key to a fantastic result.

This is a quick and easy dish to make and will take no more than  20 minutes to prepare if your clams are already clean and free of sand. The ingredients are easy to find but it is essential to use fresh parsley, a good dry and fruity white wine and of course fresh clams not frozen. If you are able to find them Galician clams are the best. I highly recommend using an Albariño white wine or a Ribeiro, both work wonderfully with this dish.

Ingredients to make Clams in Salsa Verde ( 2 people) :  

500 grams of clean clams

125 ml  of white wine (Albariño Rias Baixes ó Ribeiro, preferably)

2 cloves garlic large

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon of wheat flour

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper

(some like to add 1 small crushed dried chilli – optional)

Before you begin, make sure the clams are clean and have no sand in them. If you bought them already cleaned, great, but if not you will have to clean them. There is nothing worse than chewing on a gritty clam!

So you will need to let them soak in water with salt for 2 hours, changing the water two or three times during that time. Once the clams are clean we can start with the recipe. Peel two cloves of garlic, mince and remove the heart of the garlic. Put them in a frying pan with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and bay leaf. Before they have browned add a tablespoon of flour and stir well. Let the flour brown a little but not burn.

 Now add the wine, clams, a pinch of salt (half dessert spoon), a little pepper and sprinkle with two tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley. Cover the pan and leave on medium heat for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes remove the lid and see which clams have opened and remove them from the pan. Once they have all opened and been removed, check if the green sauce needs salt.

Now let the sauce simmer a little more without the lid and the clams, we want to reduce the sauce so it becomes slightly thicker.

We must ensure that the sauce is well blended, so don't remove it from the heat until the sauce is nice and thick, we also want to make sure all the alcohol has evaporated. When the sauce is ready put the clams back in and mix well with the sauce. This will heat the clams up again and then serve immediately. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with the remaining parsley and accompany it with a wedge of lemon. Some prefer that acidic touch to the sauce that the lemon gives, but I prefer it just as it is. What I will do from time to time is add a dried chili or two depending on the number of clams. This gives it a wonderful kick! You can add the chilli right at the beginning with the garlic, that way it will flavour the olive oil directly.

 

 

The last thing you must remember is to have plenty of crusty bread because once you have finished the clams there will be loads of delicious sauce to soak up!!

Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 21:26   Comments (1)


Perfecting Paella Making
02 July 2020

It's not the first time I have written about cooking paella, but I think, if you are really interested in making paella this might just be the most useful article I have written. Since my last article, I  have practised a fair bit and learned a significant amount through trial and error and testing other people’s recommendations.

I have learned one fundamental thing, always use the same size paella pan until you are consistently producing perfect paellas every time. That means understanding your pan-to-water-to-rice measurements, meat and vegetable quantities and heat control. All play a vital role in pulling off the perfect paella. 

As I never managed to find any articles or anyone who ever really committed to the exact proportions or advice that was actually applicable in the home. You always needed to adjust for your situation ie. your pan was smaller or larger, your burner was less powerful, or you would never cook a paella that big ever and you would need to adjust everything! 

Some would say 1 part rice to 3 parts water others would say 1 part rice to 2.5 parts water, 1 part rice to 4 parts water! ...and then you would need to make sure you are using the right variety of rice as each one absorbs more or less water.  You see, so many things affect the result of a paella. What looks like is a simple dish is an absolute nightmare to get right! How much rice you put in the paella pan is key - the depth of the rice in the pan directly influences the amount of water (or stock if it is a seafood paella) and the cooking time so unless you have the same pan size and the same measurements etc your paella will never be the same. I have learnt a considerable amount over the years and I have come to the conclusion that the best-sized paella pan is 60 cm in diameter (unless you are consistently making paella for 9 -12 people at a time, in that case, it would be a 70cm pan.) But I think a 60 cm pan will serve the majority of households. 

On the sticker of the 60 cm pan, it will say it is good for 20 servings. What this really means is that you can feed 20 people if you fill the pan to the brim with rice. But that is never done and should never be done as the rice is never cooked evenly when so deep. I have always had a wide range of paella pans in size at home, meaning I have kept changing pan sizes depending on numbers and I had never really mastered any one of them in particular. So fi you are serious about learning how to cook paella and to do it properly I suggest sticking to one size until you master it and adjust the amounts of rice accordingly. The bigger the pan the less influence the extra rice has on the cooking time. But if you go too big, controlling the heat and the even depth of the rice throughout the paella becomes an issue, but this tends to be the case when the pan is bigger than 100cm. Any bigger though and the quality of the paella is very difficult, if not impossible to, maintain at a high standard.

So, why 60cm? let me explain why this is an ideal size. Firstly, this size is ideal for 5 to 8 servings, but if necessary you can also stretch it to 10 on the odd occasion without the paella getting too deep. Secondly, it enables you to include sufficient amounts of meat and vegetables to obtain a decent stock and leave enough space for the rice, as the base of the pan measures 52,5cm in diameter.  Most importantly, whether you make a paella for 5 or 8 people, your paella will never be more than 1 cm in depth. This is the key!

If you go to a restaurant your paella will always be thin, at most 1,5cm deep. This is fundamental if you want all the rice to be cooked evenly. The deeper the rice the more cooked it will at the bottom and possibly undercooked at the top As a maximum, you never really want to go any deeper than 2cm of rice. Ideally, aim for up to 1,5cm in the middle of the pan and up to 1 cm on the outer edge. Now you see why we need such a big pan for so few people. By doing this we will guarantee that the rice is cooked evenly and you will be able to control without too much trouble “el punto del arroz” - which is the equivalent of the “al dente” with pasta. If the rice is any deeper, this is realistically impossible, especially if you let the paella sit for a while before serving. As some varieties will continue to cook after being removed from the heat such as Senia - J Sendra, whereas other such as Bomba or Albufera will withstand the resting period before serving. If you don’t know the differences there are three main types of Valencian rice with the denomination of origin. They are as follows:
 

J.SENDRA ROUND RICE (from the Senia variety)

This rice originated in Valencia, cultivated in the Albufera under the seal of the Denomination of Origin Rice of Valencia. Its grains have a great capacity to absorb the flavours and aromas from all the ingredients. It is the rice that is most used to make Valencian paella due to its creamier texture and ability to maintain its humidity on the surface without sticking. This creamier texture makes for a more intense transfer of flavours from the rice grain to the mouth. However, this variety takes no prisoners, or you get it right or your paella turns to a mushy nasty mess. The grain is prone to splitting if you cook it too long and it will continue to cook for about 2 to 4 minutes after turning off the heat. Something that you need to take into consideration. This is my prefered variety for paella.

Cooking time 13 - 15 minutes.

 

BOMBA RICE

This rice has a much higher amylose (a starch polymer)  content than J Sendra. This means that the grain has a reduced surface humidity resulting in the grains not sticking during cooking. It also has a very high resistance to overcooking which is great for the novice and also restaurants that might have the paella waiting a short time before serving. The downside is that, although it does absorb a lot of stock, that transfer of flavour is not as high as with J Sendra due to the lack of surface humidity and the toughness of the grain. It lacks that creamier texture. It is a dryer paella compared to J Sendra. Personally, I prefer this variety for rice stews - “caldosos” as they are called here.

Optimum cooking: 16-18 min
 

ALBUFERA RICE

This rice is the result of crossing the Bomba and Senia/J Sendra varieties. It has an excellent capacity for absorbing flavours and aromas, close to J Sendra but with the resistance not so much to overcooking but to withstanding the resting time after cooking. So it does give some forgiveness with the cooking times.

Optimum cooking: 14-16 min

Now we have looked into the varieties, let’s continue...

Recently, I just invested in a completely new set up for my paella cooking, which I am going to share with you. I bought a 60cm professional thickness paella pan -  this means it will never warp and should become a family heirloom. Additionally, I bought a 46cm paella burner (alta gama) by Flames VLC with the gas attachment and adjustable legs. It all came to about €120 including postage, so pretty reasonable if you ask me. This setup will do you for life and will probably cover 95% of the paella requirements you will ever have.

I bought mine here - https://paellerosypaelleras.com/)

  

                                  

 

Allow me to share the measurements and instructions for this size pan, in case you decide to buy one.

For a 60cm pan, the minimum amount of rice would be 500g and I would say the maximum amount for a lovely thin paella would be 800g, but you could perfectly stretch it to 1kg if it was really necessary and it would still be fairly thin. I calculate 100g per person, which is a standard serving at any restaurant if you are serving starters. If you are not serving starters you might want to calculate 125g per person. So, even if you are two at home 500g is basically four healthy servings and it will keep in the fridge for a day without any problems.  Realistically cooking any less at home is a bit pointless as the meat and vegetable quantities will be so small you won’t get a good stock. Anything between 500 and 800g is very similar to cook, you just adjust the water, but the cooking times are similar and with such a  big pan it much easier to adjust accordingly. 

The water ratio to rice for this pan and these amounts will be 4 to 1 :  4 parts water to 1 part rice.  400ml of water for every 100g of rice.

Why so much water compared to other recipes? Well, basically because the surface area of the paella pan is much larger than normal and therefore the capacity for evaporation is much greater. So much more water will evaporate than if the pan were smaller and the rice deeper.

 

Let’s make it! - Valencian Paella

 The authentic “Paella Valenciana” has it’s Denominación de origin, which identifies the 10 basic ingredients that it must have :

Olive Oil, Chicken, Rabbit, Ferraura (wide green beans), Garrafon (local large white butter bean), Tomato, Water, Salt, Saffron and Rice (Valencian round rice).

 

These are the basic ingredients for the orthodox paella, nothing else. However, some local variations are admitted under the name “Paella Valenciana”, which have come from local areas within Valencia, such as Benicarló where they historically add artichokes. Duck is used as well as other ingredients in the L’Albufera, snail, paprika and rosemary are also admitted but nothing else.

So here we go, I’m going to include artichokes, paprika and rosemary to the base recipe. remember we are using a 60cm pan and a 46cm gas burner.

  1. 500g rice variety - J Sendra  (but you can choose which one you prefer)

  2. 800 g Chopped up chicken, including the liver.

  3. 500g Chopped up Rabbit,

  4. 400 g of  Ferraura (also known as bajoqueta) large thick flat green beans.

  5. 200g of Garrofon – large white beans.  Try to buy all the veg fresh not frozen.

  6. 200g Grated tomato (without the skin)

  7. 4 Artichokes – once cut up into 4 parts each, keep them in water with a little lemon, that way they won’t turn the paella a dark colour. 

  8. 150ml Extra virgin olive oil (more or less)

  9. Saffron threads

  10. Table Salt

  11. 1 Dessert spoon of paprika (sweet)

  12. Rosemary still on the branch if possible. I don’t recommend dried rosemary, it is easy to put too much in and ruin the paella. With the branch it is easy to remove it as soon as the right level of taste is acquired.

  13. Water:  2 Litres + 1 Litre to create the stock - this will evaporate before we put the rice in.

 

Instructions

First make sure that the paella pan is perfectly horizontal, if it isn’t it won’t cook properly. You can test this by adding the olive oil to the pan and it should all stay in the centre. If it doesn’t adjust until it does. I also have a spirit level for this, a little quicker!

Turn on the gas to a medium heat.  

Sprinkle some  salt around the edge of the pan  

When the oil is hot, add the chicken and the rabbit. 

Fry the chicken and the rabbit for at least 20 minutes at medium to low heat. You don’t want it burnt but you do want it a deep rich golden brown colour on all sides. This is one of the main tricks behind a good paella. Most people do not cook the meat enough during the preparation stage. It will not end up tough, later with the water it will soften up the meat.  

Once you have achieved the colour of the meat, spread out the meat to the edge of the pan to make room in the centre for the vegetables  

Add the green beans first and fry them for about 5 minutes.

Then add the white beans and fry for a couple of minutes.

Spread the vegetables out to the edge of the meat and make room in the centre for the tomato.  

Add the tomato and fry for about 3-4 minutes. Once all the water from the tomatoes has evaporated, add a little water back into the tomato (this is just a couple of tablespoons or so) and fry it again until it evaporates again completely. Do this three times and you will have a fantastic fried tomato. The little water you have added just to the tomato will evaporate completely so it is not contemplated in the water for the rice.

Leaving the tomato in the centre, we now add the paprika. Now, this is a critical point. We must have the water ready and at hand when we do this and move to a low heat. For about 30-45 seconds max. we cook the paprika with the tomato. If you cook it for too long it will make the paella bitter. The water will stop the paprika from cooking any further.

Now we add the water. Add ONLY the first measurement of 2 litres of water and take note where the water level has reached in the pan – I use a metallic ruler and simply place it in the middle of the pan and take a reading to the mm. Remember it and then add the extra litre of water.

Raise the heat to medium-to-high and start boiling the stock for at least 25 minutes.

If the water level reaches the first measurement of the 2 litres before time just add more water until the stock has a strong, rich and very slightly salty taste. The rice will absorb the salt. After about 20 minutes of boiling test for salt 

Once we have a good stock flavour and have reached the first water level mark we add the rice. Just spread it out around the pan, as you have measured it is not necessary to do a cross or a line as many people do, these techniques come from judgement and practise and are basically pot luck and have to real sense to them. Just make sure all the rice is evenly distributed and all the grains are covered by the stock.

Add the saffron until we achieve a nice rich golden colour. Be careful not to put too much in, you don’t want an orange paella.  What I do is take out two or three spoons of stock and pour them into a pestle and mortar with the saffron and then grind it all together and pour it back in.

After this point, we will not touch the rice or move it around. 

Cook on high heat for 7 minutes, until the rice starts to appear through the stock. 

Then drop to a low heat and cook for 5 minutes. It is important to drop the heat because we then avoid the burning of the starch that has come out of the rice and thickened the stock.

At this point add the rosemary branch. After about 3-4 minutes you can remove it, this is done by taste and smell. If it is becoming overpowering remove it straight away. 

During the 5 minutes keep tasting the rice grains. By the end of the 5 minutes it should be slightly “al dente” but not hard. The last stage of the cooking will be done without the heat. The last minute or so, when there is now no stock left, you can raise the heat quickly to caramelize the bottom of the rice to the pan, but not burn it. It will go crispy with an intense flavour. This is called Socarrat. Use the back of a spoon to check that the rice is sticking to the pan, but smell it also to make sure you are not burning it. After a little practice, this will be easy, trust me.

 

We will not cook the rice for more than 12/13 minutes (Senia variety) unless we are not at sea level, as is Valencia. Altitude affects the cooking of rice; the higher up you are the longer it will take. So if you are up in the hills say 700m above sea level you will need a couple more minutes to cook the rice! 

Remove from heat and let it sit for at least 5 minutes. The stock should have evaporated completely and this will complete the cooking process of the rice. 

If the rice is still a little tough  (you evaporated it too quickly) you can cover it with a damp kitchen cloth or tin foil while it is sitting for 5 minutes.

The rice should be roundish, in one piece, not broken or too sticky. You should be able to separate the grains easily, but they should also have a creamy texture.

Paella is often decorated with lemon quarters but honestly, it should just be decoration, the Valencians say "lemon is only used on a bad paella" ....to give it some flavour. So, NO lemon! and remember a traditional paella is best savoured using a wooden spoon, don't ask me why, but it is true. It just tastes better!

 

Get practising!

 

 

 



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