Monthly Archives: February 2014

Take Three Chefs….A Paella Masterclass for Wikipaella´s Launch.


Wikipaella

Wikipaella

Wikipaella is an on-line tool for those who cherish paella. It is a community of people dedicated to preserving, defending and cooking the real thing. It is not a religion as these tend to spawn extremists of the worst sort. But it is dedicated to exposing `arrocidades´ a wonderful Spanish word which plays on `arroz´ and `atrocidad´ which perfectly sum up some of the rice dishes which purport to be paella.

Join the group and you will find free advice on where to sample the real thing…and, yes, the group will act as a `Police´ force exposing the worst examples and praising those who produce the real thing! The group is sufficiently open-minded as to recognise that paella is produced with traditional recipes and ingredients in different parts of Spain generally and Valencia in particular! A good philosophy and starting point is that` all Paellas are rice dishes but not all rice dishes are Paella!´ and that `Arroz con cosas no es Paella´( Rice with bits in is not paella).

Paco Alonso

Paco Alonso

The Group enjoys as co-founders Paco Alonso and two Valencians exiled in Madrid,  Guillermo Navarro and José Maza. Their enterprise led to the creation of 2013 being declared  `Year of the Paella´ and Wikipaella now enjoys Valencian Government approval.

Enough of the news stuff…interesting though it may be!

Yesterdays launch of the new website was accompanied by a masterclass in cooking paellas by three of Valencia´s iconic chefs. This was held in the Centre of Tourism in Valencia….the school for chefs, wine-waiters and other hotel and catering staff.

Joan Carlos Galbis Olivares

Joan Carlos Galbis Olivares

First of the chefs to demonstrate his art was Joan Carlos Galbis Olivares, no stranger to posts in this blog. A regular masterchef teacher at the Cdt, has his own school in L´Alcudia, his own restaurant, is a President of judging panels for professional and very prestigious cookery competitions  and a prominent member of the Platform for Gastronomic Information.

He is an expert in cooking with different rice varieties, their absorption of flavour and liquid and of course in Valencian dishes and paella in particular.

Ingredients, Paella Ribera Alta.

Ingredients, Paella Ribera Alta.

Rosemary smoke!

Rosemary smoke!

His choice was the iconic Ribera Alta version of Valencian Paella, a dish which includes `pilotes´or small meatballs with pork shoulder, pork fat, parsley, pine nuts, cinnamon and egg yolks with salt.  You can start with duck, rabbit and chicken, or just the latter two and Joan Carlos does not add salt to the paella. Slow cooking provides a good caramelisation and once this is achieved the three beans, then the pimenton and tomato are added. Then the meatballs, it is cooked longer and more slowly still until all is tender when the  water is finally added.

Joan Carlos emphasised that the amount was relevant to the type of rice used, yesterday it was Fallera Bomba, then the snails go in and the salt is adjusted. Then the saffron strands which have  been toasted first to concentrate the flavour. While the stock concentrates Joan Carlos will tuck rosemary onto the outer ring of his gas support. The smoke spirals across the pan adding flavour! This is to make up for not cooking it over orange wood.

Finished dish!

Finished dish!

After the allotted time the paella is ready for a rest ( Reposar) after which the heat can be turned back on to create the socorrat, the toasted bit on the bottom. The paella was perfect, the rice gently flavoured with smoke, rosemary and the juices and spices….Joan Carlos is a master of his art!

Evaristo Miralles.

Evaristo Miralles.

Evaristo Miralles is a technical chef, an experimenter with his own centre of investigation. He too is a master chef and hails from Alicante province. Champion chef in Spain in 2011, entrant in Bocuse D´Or and president of the judging panel in Gandia for the professional Fidueà de Gandia competition…..dont think we need dwell on this more!

He chose a very simple peasant dish, a paella from Alicante, synonymous  with the province which is essentially a rice dish made with mountain rabbit and snails. Two things make this different from Paella Valencià. Firstly Evaristo creates a stock or caldo from the meat ingredients and the other flavourings. The rabbit is cooked until it is tender but not yet falling off the bone.

Rabbit in the stock.

Rabbit in the stock.

Evaristo does use salt, adding it in a circle around the oil in the centre of the pan in a traditional manner. The tomato is added and concentrated. A dried red pepper or Ñora , which has been diced is added. Interestingly Evaristo´s advice was to add a pinch of sugar to the tomato if cooking this dish at this time of year to make up for the missing natural sweetness…..sugar in paella, surely a first!

Then the stock and meat , adjust the salt if necessary and add the rice when the stock is boiling. Cook until perfect and allow to rest. Socorrat would ruin this dish in my mind. It is a subtle, light flavoured dish but very satisfying, the rice was perfect….a punto.

Evaristo´s Paella

Evaristo´s Paella

Our third masterchef was Raul Barreguer, representing Castellon and who is also a professional teacher for the Cdt.

His choice was an arroz putxero con fetge de cordero ( you will have to humour me, I know that is paella with a cocido stock and lambs liver ) but my friends and these chefs slip effortlessly between Spanish and the Valencian language….sometimes so do my notes!)

Raul Barreguer.

Raul Barreguer.

So here you have a dish where practically all the ingredients are pre-cooked and then assembled as the rice is cooked.

Broadly speaking lamb, beef, all the traditional vegetables, colourings and spices are cooked into the stock, then the meat is stripped from the bones.

Raul starts by frying the oil, briefly with rosemary and adding lambs liver which is coloured then withdrawn. Red peppers which have been roasted and stripped of their skin are then sliced, diced and added. The rice is then added and coated with the oil, normally a no no because it inhibits absorption of flavour. Then white beans are added and  the stock already containing the colorants, spices etc. As the rice swells the meat stripped from the bones in the stock is added back and finally the liver is chopped and spread around the dish which also sits to rest when the rice is cooked.

Raul´s rice cooking.

Raul´s rice cooking.

Perhaps not surprisingly this dish was incredibly rich, up there with Fetge de Bou ( the wonderful local paella cooked with endive, dandelion lettuce and bulls liver and sweetbreads and a paella made with boletus, duck and artichoke. )

The only criticism, if indeed it is one, was that the stock was too rich but it certainly did not matter that the rice had not absorbed all the flavour….it was there in spades!!!!

If this was an arroz and not truly a paella it was a very good example of the recognition of the traditions of the region and the inventiveness of one of Valencia´s most distinctive and accomplished masterchefs!

Arroz Putxero

Arroz Putxero

This was a truly unmissable event, cooking by three of Valencia´s ( nay, Spain´s) finest chefs, three unforgettable dishes and two for me to master…..yes, one of them I have cooked three times before!

It confirms for me that there remains a rich vein of gastronomy here in the province with much more to come!!!!

Very Important...tasting!

Very Important…tasting!

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Oliva´s Moors and Christian Armies, Marching on their Stomachs!


Oliva Market Square.

Oliva Market Square.

Oliva is a small town South of Valencia on the old coastal road from Valencia to Alicante. It sits in the `comarca´ of La Safor and like all parts of the Valencian Community ( and Spain generally)  has its own culinary traditions. It is generally believed to be the original home of the hamburger, called `figatells´ here. These burgers are made from the liver, kidneys and shoulder of pork, spiced with nutmeg and given texture with pine-nuts and parsley and are wrapped in caul-fat to hold them together when being barbecued or cooked on the plancha. It closely resembles similar North African skewers ( though these are made from lamb!) and `sheftalia´ from Cyprus and parts of Greece and Turkey.

Oliva is an old town and has roman ruins.

Along with many such towns it has its traditions celebrating not just Fallas, the Valencian Spring festival,  but also the Moors and Christians.

Trebuquers discharging their Muskets.

Trebuquers discharging their Muskets.

These latter traditions are not exclusive to the South of Valencia but are certainly concentrated in towns such as Oliva and those more in the Interior and parts of Alicante such as Xativa, Alcoi and Sax to name but three. What is commemorated is the conquest of the then Islamic part of Spain, or Al Andaluz, by Jaime ( or Jaume) 1st who stormed Valencia after decisive battles North of the City.

Impromptue Dancing in the Square.

Impromptue Dancing in the Square.

Today if you go to see a Moors and Christians event you will be dazzled by the colour , spectacle and noise! The two armies are represented by `filas´who parade slowly through towns such as Oliva to the music of a brass band playing marching music, the Christian `Trabuquers´or musket firers whilst the Moors wave scimitars ( though it is by no means an exact science!) Vast amounts of money is spent on costumes, horseriders charge up and down and great fun is had by all!

But, this is not a travel guide or tourist blog!

Putxero, One Pot Dish.

Putxero, One Pot Dish.

Olivas´ food traditions are still important and this weekend has seen two separate food festivals celebrated by the townsfolk! Saturday saw the Paella competition and parades of the tradition Faelleras and Faelleros in their colourful costumes……Spring is after all just around the corner! The paellas here are highly decorated too….the result of there being a prize for presentation which today sees traditional Valencian Paella surmounted by gaudy piles of carved fruit, melon, oranges, lemon and  bread amongst other things!

Sunday was the turn of the twelve bands of Olivas´ Federation of Moors and Christians Societies, six of each variety. They began the day very early ( parking had been suspended around the Market square from about 7am) parading in turn throughout the town and up to the castle and back all the while discharging their muskets. I arrived in the square at 10.15 in time to see them return and I do not think they had lost any enthusiasm for their noisy passage! Having arrived there the bbq´s were lit and bocadillos ( French sticks) full of local longanizas (sausage), morcillas (black pudding) and pancetta ( proper thick pork rashers!) were being dispensed with beer, wine, spirits ( particularly anis) and bataxarra ( anis and sweet moscatel wine) being very popular.

Cooking Sausages and Pancetta!

Cooking Sausages and Pancetta!

You may be forgiven for thinking that this fare would be sufficient after the mornings stroll through the streets! No, this is but a warm up for the main dish!

Whilst the breakfast was cooking and being eaten the band played and people spontaneously formed up into the lines or `filas´ of the parade and stepped slowly in time, advancing no more than an inch at a time, swaying and sashaying with the simple double step whilst occasionally a `captain´ would emerge and lead them with the flamboyant gestures that go with the role. Quietly   sheltered from the breeze, twelve `ollas´ or large metal stew pots were full of putxero, bubbling away over gas rings!

Yesterday may have been the half-year ( or migany) celebration and there is no better dish for a celebration than a putxero! It is in fact more popular than Paella Valencia for a fiesta!

Pilotes

Pilotes

This is a one pot dish. Starting with marrow bones, spine, a pigs trotter and or tocino in water set to boil until the meat is falling of the bone at which point beef shin and chicken and sometimes lamb neck are added. Then the vegetables, cardoon stalks, chickpeas, carrots , potatos, parsnip and cabbage is added. The stock is seasoned and spiced with  colourant and salt and the final addition is made, `pilotes´ or large pork meatballs with bread , parsley and cinnamon and/or nutmeg wrapped in cabbage leaves go in. When these are ready so is the meal!

I have written about Putxero before and the links are below. The description above is not prescriptive. This is after all Valencia and everyone has their own family recipe so there were twelve different putxeros there to be tried! Having been invited to judge the competition along with a number of local worthies and journalists there was serious work to do! Just after 1pm we retired to the interior of the market where a  presentation dish of each was laid out! Outside the filas tucked into their own putxeros and awaited our decision.

The last time I did this (in L´Alcudia) the chefs had all been professionals from restaurants across Spain. On this occasion the chefs were all amateurs! But I can say there was greater consistency this time. There were no dodgy stocks  ( or caldos ) where marrow bones had been cooked separately, concentrated and added back to give special depth of flavour!

Classic Presentation  of Putxero.

Classic Presentation of Putxero.

The dish here was traditionally presented with all the ingredients on a single charger some embellished with lemon and orange, others with a bit of panache but no decoration. The stock was served in a jug. It was with this we started to check for concentration and  balance between spice and salt. Then the pilotes were tasted, to see if they were dry , or spongy, over or under-salted. Next was the green veg ( cardoon is difficult to cook ) to see if it was stringy , melted in the mouth or was mushy. Then the meat, either the shin or chicken was tasted for texture and flavour followed by the chickpeas which also are easily undercooked or lose their flavour when overcooked! Finally  the presentation was assessed.

Whilst lack of or too much salt was common in the stock, the biggest error for me were the dishes embellished with lemon, the juice of which had permeated the pilotes in at least two cases! The standard was however high and we enjoyed our task immensely!

Winners! Corsaris!

Winners! Corsaris!

These occasions are not to be missed! The whole day was electric, the square alive with people enjoying themselves, the filas impromptu dancing demonstrating a real unity and camaraderie between the different bands, everyone mixing freely and even the chefs happily slapping each other on the back! One big happy family and it was a huge pleasure and honour to have been part of that family for a day! Not to mention enjoying such a wonderful meal!

Thank you to David Veiguela ( President of the Federation), Miquel Angel Font Sempere ( Radio Safor journalist and fellow supporter of the Platform for Gastronomic Information who set it up!) and Deborah Markham of the Fila Pirata who made me very welcome on the day. Congratulations to Fila Corsaris who won this year!

http://wp.me/p16pqB-sV  L´Alcudia, Feria Gastronomica and the Putxero competition. http://wp.me/p16pqB-oa  In Search of El Gran Putxero, Valencia´s Classic Stew.

New Releases from Vera de Estenas. Casa Don Angel Bobal 2011.


Casa Don Angel, Vera de Estenas.

Casa Don Angel, Vera de Estenas.

The artisan, boutique winery which is Vera de Estenas has  been a favourite bodega of mine since I arrived here and first tasted their wines!

I have had the pleasure of visiting the bodega on a number of occasions most notably my first visit in September 2010, ( http://wp.me/p16pqB-6  A Visit to Vera de Estenas). There was also a seminar on quality corks run by Adolfo Miravet from the Sierra de Espedan who still harvests ecological quality cork which are used by the best bodegas in Valencia. There have been one-off visits and informal lunches, visits around Wine Tourism day and generally when wines from the new vintages are released.

Felix Martinez, the owner and wine-maker is now a firm friend and we have enjoyed lunches together and with his family on many occasions.

In the vineyard with Felix Martinez.

In the vineyard with Felix Martinez.

The bodegas wines are consistently good, the Macabeo  and the Rosado from Bobal always fresh, fruity and ideal summer drinkers.

The bodega has a range of wines in differing styles but is undoubtedly best known for the Casa Don Angel, the pure Bobal which is only made from old vines and then only in vintages which merit production.

When the bodega was set up by Felix´s grandfather the aim was to create wines like those from Rioja but the fashion has changed and today the winery produces wine which express much more of the grapes own characteristics, fruit and which have their own personality.

White, Rosado and the Chardonnay, Viña Lidon.

White, Rosado and the Chardonnay, Viña Lidon.

In the last twelve months the Bodega has also completed its passage from a winery in DO Utiel-Requena to the highest status a bodega can achieve in Spain , a Pago. Essentially this is much the same as Chateau status in Bordeaux and requires that the wine is made wholly within the  bodega from grapes grown in the properties own vineyards surrounding the winery, the bottling and all other parts of the process being carried out there. Within Utiel-Requena there are just four properties which have achieved this status for some or all of their wines.

The bodega has been one of the pioneers in researching, developing and marketing the Bobal variety. Felix will tell you happily that even at the turn of the millenium the wine text books dismissed the variety as good for rosado or blending with other varieties but that it had no personality of its own, nor was it worthy of special treatment or ageing!

Vera de Estenas is one of the seven bodegas making up the Associación Primum Bobal, whose youthful bobal was launched two years ago to critical acclaim and the third vintage of which is due to be released soon. This wine is the visible face of a major exploration into the types  ( or clones ) of Bobal, not much of which is documented.

Primum Bobal.

Primum Bobal.

Considering that the variety accounts for 70% of vineyard production in Utiel-Requena this came as a bit of a surprise. But then again the whole variety is an enigma, making as it does, a white version ( very rare) a white cava style wine, rosados, young reds, crianzas and reservas all with quite distinct personalities and of course, it also makes a sweet red when left to mature.

I was one of a small number of bloggers and wine-writers to be present at a very special vertical tasting of ten vintages of the Casa Don Angel Bobal from this bodega ( http://wp.me/p16pqB-aw ) .

So when an opportunity to taste the new vintage as it is released one does not miss it!

Saturday last Felix presented three of his wines in the HQ of Ferevin, the body which runs the annual wine fair in Requena.

First of these was the Merlot, Fermentado en Barrica, Martinez Bermell from the 2012 Vintage which is 14%ABV. The wine is fermented and spends not more than two months in oak. It is a medium bodied plum red wine with a violet edge and long slow legs. On the nose floral notes and grape are followed by a youthful freshness but with a mature cherry fruit and a hint of oak. In the mouth, cherry fruit, easy pass across the palate and good volume with a long red fruit finish make for a very nice wine.

The second wine was the bodegas under-rated Madurado en Barrica also from the 2012 vintage. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Bobal. ( 13.5% ABV). This was a deeper black cherry colour also with a violet edge and long legs. On the nose it is more complex, fruity and quite open, oak, mature fruit, jam. In the mouth it is full, round, has smooth tannins, good volume and a long full finish.

Casa Don Angel 2011.

Casa Don Angel 2011.

But the wine we had all come for was the Casa Don Angel 2011 Bobal with eighteen months in French oak. 14.5% ABV. In colour it is deeper still than the previous wine, black cherry with a blue, violet edge, and long slow glycerinous legs. The nose was less open than the last vintage to be released at the same point in its evolution ( the 2009…now sold out!) No wine was made in 2010 because wet weather made the variety too difficult to handle. Nonetheless there was a blackcurrant fruit in the background. In the mouth the entry is marked by sweet tannins, muted fruit and but very full, powerful, meaty…..a wine with a long finish and a long future ahead of it which could possibly have done with an hour in decanter before tasting.

The wine receives its formal presentation  in Valencia City tonight and those attending are in for a treat!

 

 

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