All EOS blogs All Spain blogs  Start your own blog Start your own blog 

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.

World Paella Day - 20th September - Can you cook it?
20 September 2019 @ 18:35

 

Today, 20th of September is the second edition of World Paella Day. This day is in recognition of the most universal dish Spanish gastronomy has given to the world. A day in which the Valencians share their great invention with everyone around the globe, putting aside differences and disputes with techniques or ingredients. World Paella Day simply put, celebrates a meal of humble Valencian origin that has transcended all borders. With millions and millions of yearly searches on the internet and its global consumption, according to the organisers and tasteatlas.com amongst other sources, it has scaled the ranks to become the fourth most important dish on the planet, only beaten by Sushi, Ramen and Tacos. Today being World Paella Day, all 'versions' of the Paella are accepted whatever ingredients you use, but tomorrow or the day when you happen to read this article, I can assure you they won't. The Spanish or the Valencians will return to their defensive position of protecting the original Paella - The Paella Valenciana.

There are hundreds of recipes for paella but I am amazed at how many just give the wrong ingredients and techniques and have probably just posted the recipe without even trying it first.

Yes, this is a dish that appears simple and straightforward but has its complications, as I am sure those who have tried making one for the first time quickly found out: “It hasn’t got much flavour” or “The rice is all sticky” or “is that the right colour?” or maybe all of them. I have seen dozens of recipes for paellas on the internet and I am amazed at how few follow the traditional recipe and don’t even give straightforward instructions. I’ve eaten a lot of paellas in and outside of Valencia and I can assure you the story changes when you leave Valencia. People start getting creative and putting ingredients in that a Valencian wouldn’t dream of using, not even on World Paella Day, like peas, chorizo, sausage or onion! This is not the traditional dish and therefore cannot be called a Paella! It is simply a Valencian would call it "Rice with Things" - "Arroz con Cosas..."

It is just not done like that in Valencia and let’s not forget, Valencia is the home of the Paella. The recipe has been around for well over 500 years and yet many still consider the “Paella Mixta” (mixed paella: meat and seafood and God knows what else) to be traditional Paella. The Mixta was a recent creation for the foreign tourists and started back in the ’60s with the tourist boom, it’s not very clear why it started but probably Mum and Dad couldn’t agree on which paella they wanted; “meat or seafood?” and asked for a mixed one! Who knows? But this “version” is only really served in tourist regions and is very popular in the Balearic isles, precisely for this reason; the tourists. So it is very rare to see a Spaniard and definitely not a Valencian ordering a Paella Mixta and you’ll be hard fetched to find a restaurant that serves one in Valencia.

So all this said, if you consider entertaining Spanish people with Paella, do not serve a Mixta! Surf'n Turf doesn't work with this dish.

 

 

 

I am going to start with the traditional recipe: La Paella Valenciana (chicken and rabbit). I’ve eaten so many I’ve lost count, and have had the opportunity to see many great local cooks prepare it and they all have a trick or two up their sleeves. It took me quite a few efforts to get it right too and even after a hundred it can still go wrong from time to time, so every paella is an occasion, everyone anxiously waiting around the table to see 'how it turned out!'

I will start by saying until you feel comfortable with the preparation process stick to the same sized paella pan because when you change sizes all hell can break loose if you don’t consider all the changes you have to make. So a  minimum size is a paella pan that measures 34/36cm in diameter, which is pretty much the biggest pan size you can handle with a large standard gas ring at home. To move up to a larger pan (which I prefer) you will need a paella burner adapter for your gas ring or buy a paella burner tripod to be used with a bottle of camping gas, but this is always to be used outside, never in the house. If you really want to practice cooking paella you will need a paella burner, they aren't expensive and you can buy them online, the reason being anything smaller than a paella for 4 people will not get you a great result as there won't be enough ingredients to get a decent stock fro the rice. My recommendation, to begin with, is a pan measuring 38-40cm.

You really need to consider your heat source and that will limit you to the size of the pan. Always go for the largest pan that will fit your heat source, as the more thinly spread the rice is the tastier it will be. Gas is always the best option while you are learning as it is precise and you can control the heat quickly, once you’re more expert, the ultimate paella is made over a wood fire, and preferably orange tree wood, but any will do. It is very common to use wood planks from pallets because they give a very even flame and get up to temperature quickly.

 

So what ingredients do you need? The authentic “Paella Valenciana” has a seal of guarantee of origin and quality (Denominación de origin), which identifies the 10 basic ingredients that it must have :

Olive Oil, Chicken, Rabbit, Ferraura (wide green runner beans), Garrafon (local large white 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, sweet 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 and even though this recipe is for 4, I will use a paella pan sized for about 7/ 8 people approx. 38-40 cm.

That way the ingredients are not too cramped and the paella will be thinner and have a much fuller flavour.

 

  1. 500g (about 125g per person for a healthy serving) de Valencian round rice - variety Bomba if possible. Valencian Bomba rice will be more forgiving when cooking, it also absorbs much more stock meaning it holds more flavour. Do not use long-grain rice, it does not absorb nearly as much stock as the Valencian round rice and hence will not hold the flavour, which is the secret behind the paella.

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

  3. 500g Chopped up Rabbit, even if you don't eat it, add it for flavour.

  4. 400 g of  Ferraura (also known as bajoqueta) - large thick flat green beans - try and buy fresh.

  5. 200g of   Garrofon – large white bean. Supermarkets in Spain sell these two vegetables together in frozen packs for paella: "Verduras para Paella". Easier but better if you can buy them fresh.

  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) depending on the pan. The pool of oil in the pan centre should not surpass approximately 4 fingers distance from the edge of the pan.

  9. Saffron threads

  10. Table Salt

  11. 1 Dessert spoon of paprika (sweet)

  12. Fresh Rosemary still on the branch. Do not use dried rosemary, it is far too easy to put too much in. With the branch it is easy to remove it as soon as the right level of taste is acquired. Rosemary is not meant to stay in the paella, it is only there to flavour the stock. If you use dried chopped rosemary it will be impossible to remove and probably ruin the whole paella.

  13. Water - 2,375L: 1,125L which will evaporate to make the stock + 1,25L to cook the rice. (Remember as a guideline for Bomba Rice 1 Kg of rice = 2,5 L of water)

 

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.

# Turn on the gas to low heat.  Always start with low heat or you will warp your paella pan and it will never recover its original form. Then gradually move up to medium heat.

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

# Fry the chicken and the rabbit for at least 25-30 minutes at medium 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. You will see that small parts of the meat/skin start to stick to the bottom of the pan as you fry it giving it a golden brown coating in areas, this is exactly what you want, without it you will not get a good paella stock.

 

# 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 all the vegetables and fry them for about 5 - 7 minutes until the green beans have softened and are slightly browned in parts.

# 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  

# 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 low heat. For about 1 minute max. we cook the paprika with the tomato. If you cook it for too long it will make the paella bitter. When you add the water it will stop the paprika cooking any further.

# Now we add the water. There are many tricks etc with the water measurements and really this is the key to success. Some measure it by the rivets on the pan and so on, but until you really control the paella it is better to follow these basic rules. The rules are based on the water from Valencia, which is a very hard water so if you have soft water you may need to adjust slightly. The basic rule for Bomba rice is 1 kg of Rice – 2 ½ Litres of water. Now, this is the amount of water you will need to have in the pan just before you put the rice in. So you will need more water to make the stock about 50% more than that required for the rice. So you will need approx. 1,125 litres more to make the stock on this rule, this will of course evaporate.

# Add the first measurement of 1½ litres of water and make a note of where the water level has reached in the pan - you can use the handle of a wooden spoon and mark the spoon at the water level  – then add the rest of the water.

# Raise the heat to medium heat and start boiling the stock for at least 25-30 minutes, add salt to taste.

# If the water level reaches the first measurement of the 1½ 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 and add the rosemary branch. After about 5-6 minutes you can remove it, this is done by taste and smell if it is becoming overpowering remove it straight away. 

# 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, it is not necessary to do a cross or a line as many people do, these techniques come from judgement and practise. 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.  

# After this point, you must not touch the rice or move it around. This is really important. If you do, you will cause the rice to release its starch and break and then all the grains will stick together.

# Cook on high heat for 8 minutes, until the rice starts to appear through the stock. 

# Then drop to low heat and cook for 6 minutes. It is important to drop the heat because we then avoid the sticking and burning of the starch that has come out of the rice and thickened the stock.

# The last 4 minutes or so will be on low heat or possibly a higher heat depending on how much stock you still have. That will depend on the water hardness. 

# We will not cook the rice for more than 20 minutes (Bomba 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! 

# At this point you should be checking for the Socarrat, this is the thin crispy bottom to the rice, not burnt I may add, but crispy and golden brown. To test, use a spoon. Push to the bottom of the rice and see if the rice moves or if it has stuck to the pan. If it doesn't move and it doesn't smell burnt, you have achieved that crispy finish. If it does smell burnt you will need to remove it from the heat immediately and place the paella pan on a very wet cloth to stop the cooking process and hopefully save the paella. If all is going well remove it from heat and let it sit for at least 5 minutes. The stock should have evaporated completely. If you are using wood, traditionally one would let the paella sit directly on top of the embers for a minute or so to finish off the socarrat. You could also raise the heat of the gas to the max for around 30 seconds or so until it starts to stick, but be careful not to burn it.

# If the rice is still a little hard  (evaporated too quickly) you can cover the rice with a damp kitchen cloth or tin foil if it is still quite hard. This will help finish off the rice. Let it stand for 5 minutes or until it is ready.

 

 

 

The rice should be roundish, in one piece, not broken or sticky. You should be able to separate the grains easily.

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!

 

Enjoy!!!!!!!  

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

If you don't have time to make it yourself, or would rather simply try the Real Deal here are a few of my recommendations if you happen to be in the Valencia area, all range from 20-40 euros / per person depending on wine, but these aren't just restaurants, they are wonderful places to spend the afternoon and enjoy a lazy long lunch in good company.

These first two restaurants are run by the Rafael Soler Orient so share the same philosophy. He is the son of the founders of La Genuina in Pinedo, also listed below and considered one of the classic restaurants in Valencia, all are fantasic restaurants.

 

ALQUERIA DEL BROSQUIL - Castellar, Valencia (Next to Pinedo)

http://www.restaurantealqueriadelbrosquil.com/index.html

Trip Advisor comments

 

 

ALQUERIA DEL POU -  Valencia capital (Next to the Science and Arts Museum)

http://alqueriadelpou.com

Trip Advisor comments

 

 

LA GENUINA - Pinedo (Next to Valencia : 10 min)

They don't have a website

Trip Advisor comments

 

 

CASA SALVADOR - Cullera (40 km south of Valencia on the coast)

Must order table on the terrace. It's preferable to avoid Sundays here, it gets ever so busy and can be slow.

http://www.casasalvador.com

Trip Advisor comments



Like 1




2 Comments


Paul said:
21 September 2019 @ 09:45

Thanks for such an interesting article. Not just "how" but the "why's" as well.
I've tried a few recipies, most of which have been "ok" so I'm looking forward to trying this recipe.


pjck said:
21 September 2019 @ 12:28

Yes, I can cook it, however quite often I evolve towards jamabalaya or rissoto.


Leave a comment

You don't have to be registered to leave a comment but it's quicker and easier if you are (and you also can get notified by email when others comment on the post). Please Sign In or Register now.

Name *
   
Spam protection: 
 
Your comment * (HTML not allowed)
 
 
(Items marked * are required)



 

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More information here. x