Growing your own Valencian Mountain Paella – Part two of two

Part Two – Making the Mountain Paella.

A. Size of paella pan required

It is important to use a paella pan of an appropriate size. Typical sizes are listed below.

Diameter of paella

(centimetres)

Number of good servings
As a main course As a starter or tapas
35 2 6
45 4 12
50 6 20
60 8 24
70 10/12 30
80 14/16 45
100 20/24 60

ASSEMBLING AND PREPARING THE INGREDIENTS.

The table below summarises all the ingredients, indicates the quantities required for a paella for six persons, and how to prepare the ingredients prior to starting to actually cook the paella. You can see why a genuine paella is not something to cook every day and why many restaurants and published recipes take short cuts.

Type/use of ingredients Ingredient Quantity for six persons Preparation required Notes
Preparation of stock Giblets from chicken and rabbit and the feet of the chicken From one chicken and one rabbit Simmer for a couple of hours to in a litre of water extract the flavours When the stock tastes good strain through a sieve into a measuring jug and set aside.
Crayfish or prawns 6
Salt Pinch
Black pepper Pinch
Laurel leaf 1
Preparation of meat balls Minced pork meat 250 Mix all ingredients

by hand in mixing bowl then roll two centimetre diameter balls after first placing a pine kernel in the centre of each. Roll in flour and place on plate until required.

1.Prepare mix the night before to blend flavours.

2. Soak bread in water or skimmed milk to soften and then squeeze out most of moisture.

Minced chicken breast – an alternative Part of above
Fresh bread crumbs 60 to 80 % volume of meat.
Chopped parsley leaves Table spoon
Chopped thyme leaves Tea spoon
Pine nuts 1 per meat ball
Garlic Small clove
Salt Pinch to taste
Black pepper Pinch to taste
Flour Pile on plate
Worcester sauce Small dash
Chicken egg One
Meat Chicken 1000g Chop into pieces
Rabbit 700g Chop into pieces
Cleaned Snails – optional 20 medium sized Simmer twice and reject water Can freeze some time before needed
Eel – optional Two small

ones

Cut into two centimetre lengths. Rare these days
Vegetables Climbing beans – green or reddish pods 300g Cut into 3 cm lengths If you use dried beans re-hydrate by pouring boiling water over them and leaving for an hour or two.
White haricot beans 180g This is de-podded fresh weight
Butter beans 180g This is de-podded fresh weight
Globe artichokes 1 medium

or two small

Remove hard outside leaves and cut into six segments
Tomatoes 180g Skin and chop finely
Red pepper 1 Cut 6 one centimetre wide strips length ways
Olive oil Preferable extra virgin for taste 200ml Measure in advance
Rice Preferably top grade

short grain Valencian Alberfuera

grown rice

600g Don’t wash or soak before use.
Water Preferably non chlorinated spring

water

1.5 litres plus spare litre. If no local potable spring use bottled water. Exact amount of water used will depend on that absorbed by ingredients and evaporation losses – naturally higher on windy days.
Flavourings Azafran Two pinches Possible to grow a few bulbs in the garden. Much better to use the real thing rather than packeted paella colorants.
Ground red sweet pepper – pimienton Tea spoon
Ground black pepper To taste
Salt To taste Local sea salt if possible
Twigs of rosemary Three Length half diameter of paella

pan.

Can use with flowers

COOKING THE PAELLA

  1. Your paella can be cooked traditionally on a metal stand over an open wood fire or as more usual these days on a purchased paella gas ring and stand . If using the traditional fires get the fire going half an hour before starting to cook to burn orange or olive logs until you have a heap of gently glowing embers.
  2. Add the olive oil to the paella pan and heat. gently.
  3. Brown the meat and meat balls and remove from paella for a few minutes.. .
  4. Cook the tomatoes in the remaining oil until a soft paste and then add all the vegetables. Lightly fry until most of olive oil is taken up..
  5. Add a little water to stop them burning and add the meat by spreading the rabbit, chicken and meat balls evenly amongst the vegetables. Add the azafran, ground red pepper and a little salt. For convenience you can add a sache of purchased paella flavouring/colouring instead of the azafran, pepper and salt.
  6. Add the prepared stock and water up to the handle rivets and turn up the heat by opening up the gas tap or putting on more kindling wood if cooking over a fire. Simmer briskly for 30 to 40 minutes until the meat and butter beans are almost sufficiently tender to eat. From time to time test the taste of the liquid and add more salt if necessary. If a windy day and water evaporates add a little more to ensure everything is sufficiently covered with liquid to cook it.
  7. Now add the rice evenly across the pan, place six slivers of red pepper on top , top up the liquid with water up to the rivets, place the twigs of rosemary on top and immediately bring back to the boil.
  8. As the rice cooks and takes up the liquids gradually turn down the heat and cook until the rice is cooked and all the excess liquid is evaporated. There should then be a thin cooked but not burnt skin on the bottom of the paella pan. This last stage should take 20 to 30 minutes.
  9. Then turn off the gas or rake away the ashes and cover the paella with a clean cloth and news paper. Leave for five minutes for the rice to absorb the laast free moisture. Then remove the cover and twigs of rosemary and deliver to the table.

EATING THE PAELLA.

The paella can either scooped out onto plates by the cook or by each person in turn, or eaten from the paella pan. In the later case each person eats the segment in front of them leaving a boundary line of rice between their eaten segment and the adjacent segments.. It is normal to offer guests a quarter of a lemon each to squeeze onto the paella. Probably 50% do so. A spoon and fork rather than knife and fork are usually provided for eating the paella.

At family gatherings and traditional restaurants it’s permitted to pick up bony pieces of meat to chew off the meat.

UNDERSTANDING WHAT WENT WRONG

The typical beginners problems and their solutions are as follows.

  • Soggy rice –You probably added too much water and did not cook the paella fast enough for the first ten to fifteen minutes after the rice was added or long enough for any excess water to evaporate. Rice from elsewhere in Spain or imported tends to be too sticky cooked the paella way.
  • Sticky rice – Rice grown elsewhere in Spain or imported tends to be too sticky cooked the paella way. Rice from Calaspara in Murcia province is used to prepare desserts.
  • Bottom burnt – It is normal to have a skin of dried cooked but not burnt ingredients on the base of the pan – indeed it is fought over – but if you do not gradually turn down the heat as the rice finishes cooking you could burn the lower grains of rice.
  • Oily rice – You used too much olive oil and did not fry the meat and then vegetables long enough for this to be soaked up.
  • Tough meat – Insufficient cooking before adding rice.
  • Hard haricot and butter beans – This can occur if you use dried beans and did not soak them sufficiently before using. Next time use fresh beans or partially pre cooking dried beans in simmering water.
  • Too few vegetables or meat – see the previously recommended quantities.
  • Insipid – insufficient salt and herbs, poor quality vegetables – at worst fried or bottled ones, factory force grown chicken or rabbit and not preparing a tasty stock and using only water instead.
  • Using chlorinated tap water – local natural spring water is best.

Conclusion

Properly prepared with the full kaleidoscope of ingredients and flavours there are few other dishes, if any, that can give a gathering of family or friends such satisfaction and joy.