Tag Archives: Paella

Almorzando in Restaurante Chaparral: A VÍ vid Breakfast Experience.


Chaparral.

Chaparral.

Even before we created VÍ vid to promote Valencian gastronomy and wines we were used to taking almuerzo on our visits to bodegas and fairs across the Valencian Province.

The Valencian mid morning meal tradition was inevitably part of our working day and has been an invaluable experience and learning curve .

We had both been to Chaparral, on top of the Serrania between Valencia and Castellon provinces individually but our first joint visit proved to be an exceptional experience.

A stack of expensive cycles!

A stack of expensive cycles!

This restaurant is open at weekends only during Winter and is a favourite haunt of cycling clubs , motor cyclists, walkers, mushroom collectors ( in season)  and lovers of traditional Valencian food . It has a strong tradition of providing almuerzos with a wide range of bocadillos, meat from the barbecue and then later in the day paellas, other  rice dishes and fideuàs.

As you approach the crest of the mountain road from Naquera and Serra towards Segorbe, there is a t-junction with a right hand turn off towards Garbi. 2km up this road is Chaparral, nestling amongst the pines and Carrascas.

Testing the Caldo with Kike and Lorena, Gandia 2014.

Testing the Caldo with Kike and Lorena, Gandia 2014.

It is run by a young couple, Kike Serrano Escribano and Lorena Catala Cases who are gaining an increasingly good reputation in the Valencian gastronomic canon.

Not just for Chaparral either. They run a traditional bakers down the mountain in the village of Serra and are increasingly doing well in the various Concursos ( cookery competitions ) held in Valencia each year. They also run courses for trainee chefs but their dedication to Valencian Paella has won them the top award from Wikipaella, the `Cullera de Fusta´or wooden spoon. ( In Valencia this was the traditional implement for eating paella directly from the pan until it was outlawed on health grounds by the Health Department!)

Our recent visit was a bright  sunny but cold Sunday morning and we followed the `peñas´ of cyclists, well wrapped up over their lycra team kits, as they stood on their pedals, straining for every last ounce of energy and effort to climb the steep and winding road from Serra.

Inside Chaparral

Inside Chaparral

Once we reached the restaurant we were pleasantly surprised to find a parking space. Usually the motor-cycles and racing bikes are piled up, filling all the room  outside but this morning there were spaces in the car park. The restaurant has an open terrace and ample room inside and as usual it was bristling with activity! We were welcomed by Kike who explained what was offer and showed us a table by the window with a good views of both inside and out!

The `Carne from the Brassa Option´

The `Carne from the Brassa Option´

We were tempted by meat from the barbecue but in the end, after debating over sausages ( home-made traditional local embutidos, chorizo and morcillas) or lamb we decided on the bocadillos. Kike asked us if we wanted the special breads or were happy with the traditional village bread. We opted for two `special´breads, one made with black olives and the other with a crust of whole seeds. These were to be filled with the home-made `escalivada´, tuna and salt cod with roasted peppers and  onions in olive oil.

Les Alcusses.

Les Alcusses.

As we waited we were brought a bottle of Les Alcusses, a fruity red wine from Moixent in Terres dels Alforins, part of DO Valencia. This was served with the local cacahuetes ( grown to the North of Valencia) and home preserved olives…a very important part of almuerzo!

The bocadillos had been thoughtfully cut in half so that we could each try both types of bread and were served on a black slate. We were also brought three types of dressing, an aioli ( the garlic mayonnaise ) a home-made mayonnaise of milk and a commercial variety.

Our bocadillos.

Our bocadillos.

The texture of the breads with their soft crumb, crisp crusts and the varying flavours of the fish and the rich vegetables made for a memorable experience, the milk based mayonnaise coming out on top in that selection!

 Mayonnaise selection

Mayonnaise selection

We followed that with coffee and then a chat with Lorena and Kike before we were shown the extensive paellero and kitchen. There were a range of paellas in various stages of preparation over open orange wood fires. These were all ordered by the next round of customers on their way to Chaparral for lunch that day. Lorena had been preparing the desserts.

In the Paellero.

In the Paellero.

VÍ vid thoroughly recommends this restaurant for almuerzo and/or lunch and hope to be arranging an event there shortly.

This young couple has a wonderful range of food to suit all tastes, mostly home-made and we will be returning just as soon as time permits.

VÍ vid: Almuerzistas!!

VÍ vid: Almuerzistas!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

52nd International Paella Competition, Sueca 2012.


 

 

Paella Competition!

This is THE Paella event of the year! Sueca is the spiritual home of the paella, centre of the rice-growing district and each year hosts the International competition to declare the best paella chef of the year. Thirty professionals, from accredited restaurants are selected to cook. Any restauranter in the world can apply, but only 30 will be selected and this year saw invitations to Las Vegas, New Zealand and France as well as restaurants from Cordoba, Seville, Madrid, Jaen, in wider Spain. The remainder were local restaurants from Murcia and within the Valencian Community.

Japans Entrant.

There is no getting away from it…competition is intense but remarkably friendly, all the chefs and their teams exchange jokes and banter before it starts but once it has the only interchange is a sneaky glance at how your neighbour is doing during the two hours allowed for cooking. The rules are very tightly written, the ingredients, pans, wood, triangle supports and water are all supplied by the town hall in order to ensure a level playing field.

In line with tradition, if not the rules of the Paella D.O.  ( as I have written before they take paella very seriously, almost as a religion, here in Valencia) only the following may be used:-

Rice from Sueca, Free range chicken, rabbit, snails, garrofó, tavella and ferradura ( the three beans) olive oil, garlic, tomato, pimentón, saffron and a sprig of rosemary ( which is optional).

The town hall thoughtfully set aside the park opposite Sueca Station and fence off thirty corrals for the chefs to cook in.

Even the method of cooking and the order the ingredients are added to the paella pan are prescribed. Essentially the aim is to cook as slowly as possible to brown the meat and create a caramel in the bottom of the pan which forms the basis of the `socorrat´, the most prized element of the paella which essentially is the burn´t bit on the bottom!

Restaurant El Castillo.

By the time the tomato, pimentón and veg have been added the caramel is building nicely. Then the water and saffron are added and the meat cooks slowly for another half hour or so to tenderise it as well as cooking the vegetables properly ( no pre-soaked beans, no packets or jars or tins allowed, the veg is fresh!)

Then with around 25 minutes to go the fire is stoked up, the liquor brought to a rolling boil and the rice and snails added. After 15 minutes the heat is reduced and after it reaches the point where it is cooked, the paella pan is lifted off the supporting triangle and sat on the ashes to `reposar´or relax, as well as fixing the socorrat.

Then the chefs take their paellas to be judged by the Jury and the teams, their guests, the dignitaries and other lucky visitors go off to the local banqueting suite for a very good lunch, courtesy of the Town Hall and the sponsors!

This year I found myself amongst the fortunate guests! How so? Well, the Plataforma Información Gastronomica, dedicated defenders of Valencian gastronomy in general and defenders of paella in particular had entered local restauranter Eduardo Frechina of El Castillo, Godella and invitation had fallen through his letter box.

Supportes of PIG eat Almuerzo.

Not surprisingly therefore his `equipe´ consisted of at least 11 supporters who arrived in Sueca for almuerzo, bread, ventresca provided by Maestro Galbis from nearby  L´Alcúdia and a rabbit dish cooked previously by Eduardo taken with bread and washed down with Cava and Syrah from Daniel Belda.

Suitably fortified, attention turned to preparation, the beans podded and chopped, the chicken and rabbit cut to appropriate chunks, the tomatos grated, the garlic peeled and the rice and water collected from the organisers. Then the orange branches were broken up ready to add to the fire as needed, the sand laid out on the floor and the triangular support steadied and levelled with the appropriate pebble. All of this was done meticulously, with great attention to detail and much additional tradition ( eg the jugs of San Miguel to keep the team fresh) under a growing sun!

The start was announced but curiously no-one lit their fires for a while! Smart phones were deployed to time the different stages!  Eventually the fires were lit the pans deployed, oiled and salted and the meat began to cook.

As the stages unfolded the crowd gathered at various stalls, the TV crews ( at least five) interrupted proceedings with interminable interviews and famous chefs who were not invited this year chatted to their competing colleagues, offering unwanted advice! The previous years winner is automatically excluded from the competition and participants from the previous year may only compete if there are insufficient new applicants.

Underway!

Acrid smoke wafted through the trees, the heat increased….and not just the heat of competition!

Gradually we reached the stage where the rice was added, the air now white with smoke, the San Miguel flowed faster.

Then suddenly it was all over, the paellas were being carried to the judges leaving the teams to clear up after their respective chefs and enjoy the odd bottle of cava which had been lurking in the bottom of the cold boxes.

We joined the procession to SalaCancela where the lunch was being held .

Five courses were to follow, a tartlet of seafood with wild mushroom, Valencian Salad, a cannelloni of Confit of Albufera duck, a palate cleanser of mojito, a main course consisting of paella, the thirty competition entries shared out amongst the 250 guests, then a chocolate ice cream bombe, coffees and brandy. Wines were provided by 40ºNorte, a Merseguera/Sauvingnon Blanc blend called Mar de sao and a young Syrah, So de Syrah, a top new bodega from Alforins. Cava was provided by Bodega Pago de Tharsys, the Brut Nature Carlota Suria being the perfect accompaniment to paella.

Competition Quality Paella.

The prizes were handed out, the eventual winner being declared as Restaurant Ba-Ba-Reeba from Las Vegas, USA. But it was alright, those pesky Americans hadn´t really won at all as the Chefs were Valencians who live there!

For the record, our team of Eduardo Frechina and Alfonso Martinez Serrano came ninth out of 30, just outside the awards, but rewarded by the experience of cooking with the best….make no bones about it Michelin starred chefs such as Oscar Torrijos were taking part as well and there are no losers as participation in the occasion is sufficient!

PIGs can hold their heads high and plan victory for next year!

 

The Winners! Ba-Ba-Reeba, Las Vegas.

 

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