The Spanish take their rice very seriously, and the other day I was discussing with a group of friends which their favourite rice dishes were, their favoured cooking methods, what variety of rice is best and should you include garlic and onions or not it? Can a good paella be made without rabbit? We all agreed, no.
It occurred to me that I had not shared any Spanish rice recipes with you. I am about to rectify that lack.
The one thing that all rice dishes here have in common, is that the rice is cooked in a flavoured liquid, and so the short to medium grain varieties of rice which absorb much liquid without disintegrating, are the ones used.
The best rice we all agreed is Bomba from Calasparra. The only rice cultivated here not at sea level, but in the flood plains of several rivers in the mountains where it grows slowly in the cool water, letting it develop lots of flavour. Consequently it is more expensive than other rice, but you get what you pay for.
Cooking the rice outside on an open fire is unanimously the favoured cooking method preferred by my friends, although whether this is more to do with the atmosphere of gathering friends and family together and all pitching in with either ingredients to go in the rice or little starter dishes, rather than the actual flavour of the rice, I am not sure.
The paella illustrated above and cooked by my camera shy neighbour Paca, was made with rabbit, pork ribs, artichoke quarters and red and green peppers.
Obviously this method of cooking rice is not available to most of us, and is best suited to cooking for a good number of people, but that does not mean that a good paella for as few as one person cannot be successfully prepared in your own kitchen. The flavour of the fire can achieved by the addition of a pinch of good smoked pimenton or paprika.
There are as many paella recipes as cooks, and many are simpler and have fewer ingredients than the celebratory Paella Mixta with its several varieties of seafood plus chicken, rabbit, and pork ribs for the meat. I am going to start with my favourite which has as its two main ingredients, rabbit and butifarra sausage. The sausage is quite highly spiced, so if the butifarra is not available, use any other peppery sausage.
PAELLA DE CONEJO Y BUTIFARRA
1 rabbit – cut into chunks with the bones in
1 Butifarra sausage of aprox 350 grams
1 onion – cut into small dice
1 red pepper cut into strips or small squares
1 -2 green peppers – cut into small squares
250 grams short grain rice – La bomba or any of the risotto rices
1 – 1.25 litres light stock
Saffron – 2 good pinches
Pimenton – 2 pinches
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
300 grams French beans – cut into short lengths
Peel the sausage, cut into quarters lengthways and then into thick slices.
Put into a shallow pan on a low heat for the fat in the sausage to render out. If you are using a very lean sausage, then add some olive oil in which to gently fry the sausage.
Add the onions and fry slowly until transparent.
Add the peppers and again fry slowly for about 10 minutes.
Add the rabbit pieces and fry turning from time to time until sealed all round.
Now add the rice and stir in to make sure that it is coated with all the fat and juices from the other ingredients. Fry for about five minutes to let the rice absorb the juices.
Crumble into the pan the saffron and add the pimento. Stir well.
Now add the stock. Start with about three quarters of the amount stated.
Bring to a simmer and keep the heat low. Cover and let cook for about ten minutes.
Stir the rice. Add the beans.
Add more stock if needed. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
Leave to cook until the rice is cooked but still slightly firm in the centre and the stock has been absorbed.
Turn off the heat and leave the rice covered to rest for about ten minutes.
Next time – Arroz Negro – Black Rice made with seafood and a hint of chilli………