Paella (pronounced: pie-A-yeah) is a traditional saffron rice dish from the valencian region of mediterranean Spain. But to the valencian people it is more than just a dish. Its a social event involving invited friends or family or even an excuse for work mates to get together with their families and have a massive outdoor bbq style event.
This week we had the privilege of visiting friends in their village where the growing season never ends. On leaving we were given bags and bags of vegetables: italian green peppers, egg plants, zuchinnis, tomatoes and cucumbers. But for me, the most exotic vegetable was the "garrofón" a key ingredient in the valencian paella.
This was the first time I ever had these garrofón beans fresh and the perfect excuse to return the invitation and have our friends over to the house for a paella. And while at it I decided to documented the process for this instructable.
I hope you like it. I will include links to all necessary ingredients and equipment so if you wish to follow these steps and make your own paella social event regardless of what part of the world you live in, you can.
Step 1: Source the Ingredients
I already had the garrofóns and the amazingly huge tomatoes from our friends garden but of course I needed more items to make this into an authentic valencian masterpiece!
I went to the town market, a beautiful, century old art nouveau building, and searched for stalls selling the finest quality organic foods and 0 km local produce.
I bought flat green beans at Gustum Organic Zero
I bought the chicken and rabbit at Pollastre Pili
The organic chicken is sourced locally from El Coll de Noguera in Montblanc, Tarragona
And the free range rabbits are farmed in Aragon.
Have the person serving you chop the meats into medium size chunks, skin removed from the chicken and, very important: all meat left on the bone. This will add lots of flavour to the stock in which the rice is cooked.
Unfortunately i couldn't find any fresh white beans to go with my fresh garrofóns and fresh green beans. They're not in season until September. So I went by Fruits Secs J. Cendros, another century old establishment to purchase dry beans by weight
I'd swear this shop hasn't changed in 100 years!!!
Lots of stores here in Spain stock a variety of rices. The best rice for paella is Bomba rice. It is very resilient to over cooking which can be a problem with paella as its tricky to calculate the amount of water needed. But don't just take my word for it read what it says on the back of the pack. We also have Saffron readily available and Pimentón, a smokey sweet paprika that goes great in a number of spanish recipies.
But do not fear. In Step 10 I will introduce you to a number of online stores that will send everything you need right to your door including equipment. So check'em out!
Lastly I decided to go to the natural pine forests outside of town to forage for wild rosemary. Check out our amazing roman aqueduct you can see in my photo.
Step 2: Ingredients Summary for 8 People
Extra virgin olive oil
1kg 2lbs organic chicken quarters
Half a free range rabbit (if you can't use rabbit replace with 750grs 1.5lbs more chicken )
150grs. 6oz. Garrofóns (lima beans)
200grs. 7oz. Green beans
100grs. 4 oz. White beans
A generous sprinkling of Pimentón
2.75 l. Water
Wild rosemary sprig
750 grs. Bomba rice
Step 3: My Equipment and Set Up
This is what I use. At the end of the instructable I've put links to sites for you to get everything you need.
Paella pan 55 cm/21"
Paella gas burner
Butane gas cylinder
Skimmer spoon with a long handle
Mortar and pestle
Kitchen knife and chopping board
I hope you can appreciate the size of this 55 cm diameter paella pan. It completely covers our vitro ceramic hob!!! Its feeds as much as 10 people. You could push it to more but an over loaded paella pan won't cook well. At the other extreme you can lower the quantities to feed 4 or 5 people and you will just have a much thinner base of rice, which is what the experts say is more flavoursome and aesthetically pleasing.
It is very important that your paella pan is level when cooking. The spirit level makes light work of this. Just prop up the gas burner's legs with anything until you have it flat.
Attach to your gas cylinder.
Step 4: Prep All the Ingredients
Have all the ingredients ready before starting
Soak the dry beans over night and boiled them for 20 minutes. They are not fully cooked at this stage. The paella finishes cooking them later.
Have at the ready: olive oil, salt, water, pimentón, saffron, rice and the rosemary sprig.
Have the meat ready on one plate.
Shell the lima beans on another plate, have the half cooked white beans on another and chop the green beans into short lengths and put on another plate.
Peel and blend the tomatoe.
Step 5: Sauté the Meat
Light the gas. To do so turn the knob all the way to the far left. This puts the gas at the minimum setting so that igniting the gas won't cause a "great ball of fire". For now only use the small ring.
Give the pan a quick wash and put it directly on the lighted gas.
Pour on the olive oil and sprinkle salt all round the outer part of the pan. This will help the pan not over heat.
When the oil is hot add all the meat together.
Season with salt and move the pieces around, turning them so they brown on all sides.
As the smaller pieces of meat get browned push them to the sides like you see in the last photos of this step.
Step 6: Sauté the Vegetables
Now with all the meat browned and pushed out to the sides, sauté the vegetables in the meats juices. This is what I love about paella: it's a One-Pot-Recipie!
Sauté the green beans for 5 minutes (season with salt).
Sauté the white beans for another 5 minutes (season with salt).
Add Lima beans and reduce heat to low. Sauté for a few more minutes (season with salt).
Last, add the blended tomatoe and cook off the juices.
Step 7: Make the Stock
So, the process is: Sauté the meat, sauté the veg in the meats juices, make stock from the sautéd meat and veg and then the rice soaks up all the flavour from the stock as it cooks. And there you go. Easy!!!
So, back to making the stock: sprinkle on the pimentón, stir a bit and immediately add the water. Light the second ring of gas and crank up the heat to bring it to the boil then simmer.
Let the stock reduce for about 10 minutes or so. A way to do this is mark the depth of the liquid on the skimmer spoon and estimate a depth to get to. Say 3/4 of where it's at so the flavours will be concentrated. Grind the saffron in the mortar. Add a bit of the water from the pan. Stir and pour back into the pan. Leave it simmer 10 minutes
Add the rosemary sprigs but only for 5 minutes. Wrap it up with kitchen string so that it won't fall apart. Remove and reserve for presentation.
Check the stock for seasoning it may need more salt.
Step 8: Add and Cook in the Rice
Add the rice in one line across the paella pan. The amount of rice that the stock can take is a line/ridge of rice that reaches just above the water level.
Now spread it around the pan evenly. DO NOT: stir it around and around as that will make all the rice come to rest in the center of the paella. Once its been spread out evenly it doesn't get touched again. In other words the rice is left to cook settled.
Give it a rolling boil for 3 minutes.
Turn it all the way down for about another 10 minutes or until it looks like its done. All the stock should be absorbed by the rice.
Turn off the gas
If the rice grains still seem a little hard cover the paella with newspaper and leave the rice to fully cook in the vapours another 10 minutes. Meanwhile you can prepare the table.
Step 9: Presentation
Place the rosemary sprig back on top in the center
Cut lemon slices and place around the sides.
Great! Its ready to eat. Bon Appetit
Or as they say in Valencian "Bon Profit!"
Eat directly from the paella if you like but if you've invited the Pope to dinner maybe you should use plates.
Step 10: Sourcing Equipment and Ingredients Online
The one piece of essential equipment you absolutely need to make an authentic paella is the paella pan. Thanks to the popularity of this dish you can find specialty stores on-line for purchasing the pan which shouldn't break the bank, and anything else you wish to add to your paella making hardware and you can even order the ingredients! A quick search on goolge revealed a number of interesting sites:
In the US you can order here: https://www.paellapans.com
In the UK you can order here: https://www.thepaellacompany.co.uk
From Spain and shipping internationally is this site: https://originalpaella.com
NOTE: There are big differences in prices so shop around.
Browsing these sites you will notice lots more equipment for paella making and depending on how you want to do it you might need to invest in these pieces of hardware too.
Basically you need to think about how will you cook it. The best paellas are cooked on wood fires it gives a fantastic smokey flavour to the rice. If you are lucky enough to have a place to cook outdoors already then perhaps you don't need any more equipment to get started. But if you want to cook indoors you will need a specialty gas ring burner. Kitchen stove tops won't do. The heat needs to reach all parts of your pan equally when cooking the rice. This will be a bit more pricey but its worth going for the largest burner you can afford. They have concentric rings that can burn independently so on a big gas ring burner you can cook a small paella, a medium paella or a large paella. If you buy a small burner you might find that you're limited.
My gas burner is very big! I'm not bragging. Its too big! I love having it but with this pan the outer gas ring is not necessary the flame would overlap the sides. So all I use are the two inner rings. I have a bigger paella pan for using all three rings but I'd have to invite round the whole neighborhood for that!!!!
So as a basic guide line: anything up to a 60cm paella pan could be cooked on a 40cm burner
Step 11: Cleaning the Paella Pan
Last thing to say:
The cheapest paella pans are the best! They're just made from pressed steel. It's what the real valencians use! When you wash your pan for storing it away until next weekend's paella ;) , dry it with a kitchen towel and immediately wipe the surface with a little olive oil to stop it rusting.