Tribute to Paella in El Palmar, Part 1 of a Two Event Week.

Homenaje a Paella Valenciana2013 is the International Year of the Paella, not the dreadful tourist rubbish but the `real deal´Paella Valenciana, the original and the best!

During the year so far a number of events have taken place and today saw the village of El Palmar, (in the centre of the Albufera and home to the origins of Paella Valenciana and the rice-growing district South of Valencia) and more importantly its restaurants receive their window stickers which are the guarantee that they cook the real thing.

This is far more  important than just a guide to tourists spending their money.

We have to remember a number of factors come into play here.

Fresh healthy ingredients.

Fresh healthy ingredients.

Firstly the Mediterranean diet was declared part of  Human Heritage by UNESCO in 2011. There is probably no better example of the balanced diet than  Paella Valenciana, with its healthy lean white meat ( chicken and rabbit), olive oil, fresh vegetables and beans, rice ( DOP Valencia) which is the carbohydrate,  saffron and salt. It is a balanced meal in itself cooked with local, fresh ingredients.

Secondly the fact that those ingredients are local, produced by local farmers is an important part of the local economy.

Thirdly that they are cooked regularly by local families and  local restaurants is a source of pride  to the Community as a whole. It should be, surveys of tourists visiting Valencia show that more than 30% come for the gastronomy!

Finally it a social dish, like so much of Valencia´s cuisine, to be enjoyed with and amongst friends.

Paella, Cooked Over Wood!

Paella, Cooked Over Wood!

Yes there is controversy about what should or should not be in it, but serious paella Valenciana aficionados accept there are local variations and ingredients in different parts of the Community.

Today saw a number of groups come together to pay tribute to El Palmar´s restaurants who have stayed true to the tradition. 27 of them in total received their window stickers!

Interestingly the `Communidad de Paellas´ was amongst them. This is a group of  Valencians, exiled to Madrid, who produce some of the funniest video´s and slogans, following their relentless exposure of `arrocidades´ ( a brilliant Spanish word which essentially means atrocious rice dishes) which often masquerade as paella in the Capital city. You can follow their work on Facebook.

Paco Alonso.

Paco Alonso.

They and host Paco Alonso created, an initiative based in the social networks which promotes Valencian gastronomy and Paella in particular.

Also present were a number of bloggers active in the food world of Valencia, live streaming the cooking of the paellas and arroz al senyoret which were to become the official lunch later and which were cooked in the barraca which is the kitchen of El Redoli restaurant…..a long building with a paellero down one entire side!

The Community´s politicians could not miss this opportunity either!

Pepi Montoro and Sebastian Fernandez.

Pepi Montoro and Sebastian Fernandez.

Paco Alonso, gourmet, TV Journalist and blogger, contributor to National Newspapers, etc, whose brainchild the whole exercise and International Year of the Paella is, acted as compere, but the local Mayor of El Palmar and the Director of Tourism at the Valencian Governments´ Agriculture Department, Sebastián Fernandez,  were very keen to heap praise on the  initiative and offer their support, recognising the massive contribution the initiative is making to raising the profile of Valencia ( for good reasons) not just Nationally but Internationally as well as supporting the local economy. Sebastián later received a crash course in cooking paella from Pepi Montoro, a chef at El Redoli.

Of course the Platform for Gastronomic Information ( another Facebook group – PIG ) dedicated to protecting and promoting  Gastronomy in general ( and Valencia in particular) were well represented.

El Redoli.

El Redoli.

Once the presentations were over the assembled guests sat down to lunch in El Redoli, one of the local restaurants for a simple, healthy and very traditional meal, a Valencian salad of spring onion, local tomatos and olive oil; Esgarraet, a dish of piquillo peppers with salted cod in olive oil; Alli Pebre, a plate of stewed potatos and eel with a guindilla pepper and pimenton; main courses of Paella Valenciana, Arroz al Senyoret, which traditionally has prawns, squid and monkfish ( both cooked over wood) ; then melon and water melon accompanied by local cakes.

Wines were provided by sponsors Murviedro and Beer by Amstel.

And this was only part 1?

Oh yes, next Sunday is the 53rd International Paella Competition in nearby Sueca……we are all going to have to do it all over again!!!!!!

International Paella Competition!

International Paella Competition!

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