Paella with ribs and cauliflower

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PAELLA! Who hasn’t heard of this dish? Maybe the most representative for Spain.

It’s one of my absolute favourites: not only for being a very tasty dish, but mostly for being a dish for people to gather around and cook together.

It’s difficult to say which ingredients a “true” paella should really have, because there must be as many recipes as there are cooks. And all of them consider their recipe to be the best.
And so, do I!

History

There are no doubts about the paella coming from the Valencia region on the Spanish East coast. The Arabs brought the rice to the Iberian Peninsula during the 8th century and the Valencia region became one of the most important areas of cultivation due to its favourable conditions.

Some people say that paella is the perfect fusion between two cultures: the Roman that contributed with the pan and the Arab that contributed with the rice. The word paella is actually the name of the cooking pan itself and not the dish, and it has its roots in the Latin Patella meaning pan.

Paella was originally farmers’ and farm labourers’ food. It was during the 16th century that it became more and more common to cook this dish with rice and with whatever was close at hand around the fields and countryside. You can cook a paella out of practically anything!: rabbit, chicken, duck, snails, vegetables or mushrooms. And you are surely thinking: “and saffron”—but not always. That’s mostly when you make a fish and/or seafood paella.

How and when do you eat paella?

Naturally, you’re free to eat paella whenever you like. But according to the truly devote paella eater, there is a certain protocol to follow.

Paella is eaten for lunch, and that’s it. And preferably on Sundays.

The paella should be served to the centre of the table and the guests eat directly from the pan with a spoon (preferably a wooden spoon). But nobody will of course be “lynched” if they serve the paella on plates and eat it with a fork as you usually do in a restaurant.

Recipe

Here is the recipe of one of my true favourites: paella with cauliflower and ribs. I do have another favourite too with asparagus, chicken and chanterelles. Heavenly good!

Traditionally you cook paella over a wood fire, which gives a very special good taste. I use a gas ring, but you can also cook it on the barbecue or on the stove. The important matter is to have even heat under the whole pan.

What about the size of the pan?

In this recipe I recommend using a 42 cm diameter pan for 4 people. The trick is to get a paella as thin as possible and therefore I use this same size when I cook only for two.

Ingredients for 4

  • 1 kg ribs cut in small pieces (ask the butcher to cut the ribs in 4-5 cm big pieces)
  • 600 g round-grain rice. Preferably Bomba or Arborio
  • ¾ cauliflower cut into florets
  • 1 can of strained tomatoes, 400 g
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 spoon paprika powder
  • Yellow pigment for paella (optional)
  • Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1,6 + 0,8 l water
  • Paella pan, 42 cm diameter

 

IMPORTANT! Before you start with the cooking, make sure that you have some wine well chilled and some snacks prepared. I consider that to be more than half the pleasure with cooking (and encourage your guest to help you with the dicing and mincing while you sip on a glass of wine).

When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and stir fry the meat. Add salt.
Once the meat starts to roast, add the cauliflower and roast it all together until the mixture obtains a nice colour.

Add the strained tomatoes and let it cook for a couple of minutes.

The next step is to add the paprika powder: here you need to be careful. If you let it fry too long it turns bitter. Add the paprika powder and let it cook 15-20 seconds before you add 1,6 l of water. Here it’s important to observe the level of the water and take that as a mark.

Once you have the mark set, add another 0,8 l of water plus the two chicken bouillon cubes ant let it boil until it has reduced to the initial mark. This way we get a very tasty stock to cook the rice in.

This might take a while, so lean back and enjoy a glass of wine together with your guest. Why not with some olives as well?

Once the stock has reduced to the desired amount, taste it to check if additional salt is needed. Add the pigment if you wish AND—here is a trick: add a sip of beer or two. (I’m sure one of your guests can help you with the rest of the beer—if you don’t want it, that is.)

Now it’s time to add the rice. It’s important you spread it properly over the pan and mix it with the other ingredients. From this moment on, don’t stir the pan.

Let the rice boil lively for 8 minutes and then another 10 minutes at low temperature.
Once 18 minutes have passed, turn off the heat and cover the paella with paper towels and let it rest for 3-5 minutes.

Ready to eat!

If you’ve calculated the amount of stock and the temperature correctly, you’ll have a paella with a crust on the bottom of the pan. It’s not burnt, but golden and crunchy.
This is what is called socarrat, which means roasted in Valenciano—and EL SOCARRAT is sacred. Once you try it you will know why.

Buen provecho! Bon appetit!

Evalisa Persson

 

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