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Paella en El Maestrat – Jamie Oliver eat your heart out!

Ramon and mum waiting to serve their traditional Sunday paella to the family
Ramon and mum waiting to serve their traditional Sunday paella to the family

Every man worth his salt measures his culinary skills by his ability to produce the perfect paella. No barbecue man here, but paella man!  Not that women don’t make paella I hasten to add.  I have been invited to many a home for a Sunday paella and  it has always been delicious – yet each host has made an excuse as to its apparent shortcomings.

Perfect size paella pan for 50!
Perfect size paella pan for 50!

It is the custom to order paella “to take away” if you are having a fiesta. A dish of the size in the photo above will typically feed about 50 people. It was produced at Casa Ramon many years ago by  Mary’s mother who  told me a not so little secret – traditionally, the lovely yellow colour of paella comes from the spice saffron.

Party paella
Party paella

But saffron is very expensive so they use food colouring in the form of a yellow powder – you can buy pots of it in any supermarket and the better paella colorants have a little bit of real saffron added to it!   We both had a good laugh. The main thing, she told me, is to simmer it over a real wood fire, and to stir it frequently. And of course, to use the correct short-grained  Bomba rice. This make-shift set-up in the previously vacant lot next to Ramon’s is ideal. And the paella is absolutely amazing, with just the right amount of socarrat (burnt bit!) at the bottom.

Most people around here use mostly colorant instead of saffron in their paella
Most people around here use mostly colorant instead of saffron in their paella

In July 2013, when my masia was very raw indeed, Rafa and Elena of El Portoles restaurant in Castellon came up to cook for me and 11 guests their pure Valencian version.   It was quite an experience and the flavour and texture of the rice was perfect.  However, for those perfectionists, there was no socarrat at the bottom. I actually thought it all the better for it. As I have no wood BBQ, they had to use a gas ring so please excuse them. I’m scared of wood fires in el campo!

El Portoles, Castellon
El Portoles, Castellon

It was the first time I saw a paella being made from start to finish and the simplicity of its execution impressed me, so much so that I requested the recipe.  This was also very simply written, I guess typical for a chef who assumes a profound knowledge of techniques.  So here is Elena’s recipe – the photos are actually of a 12-person paella, but the quantities below are for 4.  It did not take too long because all ingredients were prepared beforehand.  Just use your cooking experience and fill in the gaps!

Elena's handwritten paella recipe
Elena’s handwritten paella recipe

The genuine Valencian paella recipe as related by Elena!

First of all you need a flat-bottomed pan.  It has to be flat, and preferably a real carbon-steel paella pan. The size of the pan will depend on how many people you are cooking for.   Place it on a trestle outside with either a wood fire underneath or, much easier, on a gas ring.

 

A carbon-steel traditional paella pan
A carbon-steel traditional paella pan

Heat up the pan, pour in olive oil (Elena says oil, but I assume it is olive oil.  I don’t know any Spanish person around here that would consider anything else) and heat gently on low heat then add:

¼ chicken with bone, roughly hacked

¼ of a large pork cutlet, on bone, roughly hacked

 

Adding the first vegetable to the paella
Adding the first vegetable to the paella

Now add and  stir:

a red pepper, coarsely chopped

8 artichokes – cleaned, tough bits removed and quartered (although Elena’s looked liked they were smaller!)

250 grs of large green beans, cut in 2 inch lengths.

The first vegetables are added to the paella
Time to go to the next paella stage

When you think they look about like the photo above, add:

2 garlic cloves, chopped, stir first, then add:

1 large creamy mashed tomato

Add chopped garlic, stir the paella, then add creamed tomato
Add chopped garlic, stir the paella, then add creamed tomato

This is the moment to add HALF the water, and watch out because you are using genuine paella rice – too much water and your paella will be mush; too little and it will be like eating bits of, well, raw rice!  I have had both experiences.

Add half the water only to the paella
Add half the water only to the paella

So add and let boil for 20 to 30 minutes:

1.5 litres water (for the 500 gr rice which is coming later)

When it has reduced, add:

Another 1.5 litres water

Let this reduce once more to a lovely thickened sauce and add:

50 grs of large green beans like in the photo below  -they are not the same as the first lot of beans and if anyone can give me exact names in English I would be more than pleased! Also white broad beans or the equivalent get added immediately afterwards as in the photo below.

Another bean variety for paella - what is it?
Another bean variety for paella – tirabeque in Spanish

Next you add:

colour for paella as talked about earlier  – you can find it in absolutely EVERY  supermarket. Its main point is to add visual appeal. Rafa used the good stuff with added saffron. As for the amount, that is up to you.

The colouring of paella with some saffron added
The colouring of paella with some saffron added

Finally, and most importantly, let the remaining water evaporate (note this is Elena’s instructions, but I felt she left quite a bit of liquid still) and then add:

500 gr bomba rice – this is small and round – no other rice will do

SP5_4427Add the correct round bomba rice!
Add the correct round bomba rice!

Cook as follows:

Highest heat – 5 minutes

Medium heat – 5 minutes

And finally low heat – 8 minutes

 

Leave a bit of crunch in the bomba rice of paella
Leave a bit of crunch in the bomba rice of paella

It should now be done and soft, but with a little bit of bite. Elena’s was – with Rafa’s help!   Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Elena and Rafa with their masterpiece!
Elena and Rafa with their masterpiece!

UPDATE: Sadly Rafa died of cancer a few years after he so graciously cooked for FREE at my masia. He went very quickly. A great man with many talents. His wonderful wife continues to run Portoles in Castellon. Please check through Tripadvisor as there is no website.

RIP Rafa
Rafa was a man of many artistic talents and a great spirit. Long may that live up there in the skies!
PS – a gallery of more photos will be uploaded in due course to my personal website here

12 Comments

  1. Antonia Newbegin
    September 2, 2022
    Reply

    The second type of “beans” are in fact of the pea family. Called mangetout in the UK, called tirabeque in Spain where they are quite expensive.

    • stephanie de leng
      September 2, 2022
      Reply

      Thank you so much! I tried many plant apps with no success

    • stephanie de leng
      September 3, 2022
      Reply

      Thank you!

  2. Nina Schmidt
    September 1, 2022
    Reply

    Thank you. We always travel by car during summer from Denmark for Spain. Now we have a good reason to stop in Castellon same way in have a wonderful Paella.

    • stephanie de leng
      September 2, 2022
      Reply

      There are many amazing paella places in The Communidad de Valencia. Everyone has a different opinion. So wing it!

  3. Ingrid Spiegl
    August 23, 2022
    Reply

    Another beautifully told and photographed taste of life in Spain. It’s raining in Liverpool so no chance of the wood fire in the garden, or feeding 50, and if I could there would be vegetarians, vegans and a whole host of unimaginable food allergies to contend with.
    Viva Espana!

    • stephanie de leng
      August 23, 2022
      Reply

      Thank you Ingrid. We are roasting here and could do with a lot of rain!

  4. Marcbernard
    August 21, 2022
    Reply

    Hello Stephanie I have missed you and am glad to see you back.
    Your recipe sounds and reads as delicious, Of course it is nothing like mine, nor others, but individualistic-ism is the secret, I am no longer able to cook due to illness but my heart is still going, so thanks for the input.
    I sincerely hope that you are in the best of health.
    With all best wishes
    Marc

    • stephanie de leng
      August 21, 2022
      Reply

      So sorry to hear about your health Marc. Getting old is shit.I am too but still trying to punch my weight. Haha. I appreciate your comments xxx

    • stephanie de leng
      August 23, 2022
      Reply

      Thank you Marc. Sorry about your illness. I have my aches and pains too. If only we could turn the clock back!

  5. Corky Gormly
    August 21, 2022
    Reply

    What a wonderful post Stephanie! Most enjoyable. I must try it!
    I hope you are well.
    xxxx

    • stephanie de leng
      August 23, 2022
      Reply

      As well as one can be in this tumultuous world Corky. Same to you! Xx

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