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



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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