Ingles, residente en Valencia. Muy interesada por los vinos y gastronomia, socio de club de vinos de Vilamarxant.
Paella Valencià, the Queen of paellas has often been a source of controversy as well as the most hotly debated here in Spain as to what should, or should not, be in it.
Last year the Valencian Government, at the behest of a group of restauranters who had created the Platform for the Defence of Valencian Paella, declared a Denominación d´Origen to protect its identity as well as protecting some tourists from some of the worst atrocities masquerading as Paella. I posted about this in my blog (Ricardo´s Valencian Blog, see archives October 2011) detailing the permitted ingredients and the way in which it should be made.
The debate has not closed. As I highlighted then every family in Valencia has its own recipe and there are genuine regional variations reflecting the use of local ingredients.
There are also some permitted alternatives. All of this goes in the end towards Paella Valencià being something created by or reflecting the soul of the cook as eminent journalist Paco Alonso put it.
Has it worked? Well , sadly not. This week Paco has dedicated his blog and his columns in National newspapers to highlighting what he calls ` arrocidades ´ or atrocities. Those of us who follow the debate have seen photographs of Valencian Paella (sic) from Cuba with fruit , fish and sausages included ( all outside the DO permitted list) and this week Tesco, a UK supermarket chain, has launched a Paella Sandwich only to be followed by a well known chain, Pizza Hut, creating a paella pizza and launching it in Poland with a poster campaign including a bullfighter.
At least in Spain and Valencia in particular there are no problems now? You may think so but you would be wrong. Carmencita, sells an instant paella mix…..just add water and cook ( you know the sort! ) Even on the streets of Valencia commercial paellas are sold masquerading as the real thing whilst being made up of a variety of non-permitted ingredients.
To give Paco his due he has founded a group of gastronauts using Facebook as its base and yesterday, 21 April, the Platform for Gastronomic Information (PIG) descended by appointment on `El Rek´ in El Palmar for a workshop on paella and a meal to be followed by a boat trip on the Albufera lagoon.
Let me explain for those who do not know Valencia. El Palmar is an old fishing village in the Albufera National Park. Today it consists of almost entirely restaurants and on Sundays in particular half of Valencia descends on the town to eat its favourite meal. It also receives coach loads of tourists almost every day so you might expect there to be plenty of opportunity for sharp practice!
I think not! The paella police are very active here and any straying from the norm would be pounced upon. Perhaps the only sharp practice is that restaurants can charge a bit more here because of their popularity!
El Rek is a one of the larger restaurants with space for 411 diners inside. Lola Bru Benaches runs this establishment and yes, even yesterday when 23 PIGs attended the master class given by champion cocinera Amparo , coachloads of Austrian tourists and families celebrating weddings or new born babies filled the restaurant to groaning point!
You might think restaurants would quiver with fear when faced with such a motley crew of experts, journalists, bloggers, a lawyer, business owners and food-writers who have Valencian gastronomy firmly inscribed on their collective psyche! No…Lola was confident enough to leave her champion chef outside in the car-park with us to slowly cook a Valencian Paella and describe what she was doing as she went along. As the San Miguels flowed and the cameras clicked no special secrets were divulged but to all of us it was clear that quality ingredients were the key, slow cooking so that the meat was tender and so that all the flavours, including saffron, were fully integrated into and absorbed by the rice ( bomba) .
Once the rice had been added we moved to our allocated table and enjoyed some classic tapas whist waiting for the `tour de force´. For the record Esgarret, ( salt cod and peppers ) with smoked tuna slices was followed by Alli Pebre, eel and potato stew ( Amparo is a champion cook of this local speciality too!) soon disappeared to be followed by the paella…..a wonderful example of the real thing to which snails had been added!
The rice had fully absorbed the flavor of the three vegetables, the chicken and rabbit and was separating nicely. This was one of the best paellas I had enjoyed.
No meal is complete without a dessert! Plates of sliced Valencian oranges with cointreau were followed by Coca ( or bizcocho) , a lemon flavoured cake and rollitos ( biscuits) with anis and the inevitable mistela…..a sweet muscatel wine fortified with alcohol, and finally coffee.
It is not difficult to see why this restaurant is so popular! It should be on everyones itinerary for a traditional Valencian lunch including paella!
Finally the gastro tour and paella inspection over, the assembled PIGs embarked, bravely given the wind, on a trip in a long boat through the canals, the reed beds and out onto the lake with its views of Valencia and inevitable wildlife such as herons and ducks.
I fail to see why it is necessary to create new versions of Valencian Paella! The real thing cooked well is one of the gastronomic wonders of the world!
In 1986 , around a bank holiday weekend we set off with friends from London in my Opel Manta to stay in Burgundy, on a chicken farm in Bresse, but with the aim of visiting several different wine-growing areas to buy for the cellar at home. I remember we called into Ambonnay in Champagne to buy the wines from the house of Billiot, both sparkling and still red, before visiting the Jura, Beaune, Cotes de Nuits ( Fixin), the Maconnais, Challonaise and the Beaujolais all of which were day trips.
Of the wines we bought there are but three left, a Fixin 1983, a Beaujolais Cru, Chenas Dom de Brureaux 1983 and the 1985 of the latter property.
The two 1983´s are for another day but the 1985 caught my eye the other day, still a good level in the neck of the bottle and I thought it might be time to see how good it still was. Now, I have to say there was no doubt in my mind it would still be good. Leer más
Valencia is playing a part in a charity in Africa, namely the Bisila Bokoko project, a charity aimed at ending illiteracy amongst youngsters and giving young Africans a better start and chance in Life.
How is Valencia playing it´s part? Well, grapes from across the DO and from Utiel-Requena are being made into wines specifically to be sold to raise money towards the project.
Bisila Bokoko is the daughter of an African immigrant to Valencia whose family came from Equatorial Guinea, her father going on to become the first African to qualify here as a lawyer. The family still live here, her brother working in a bank in Valencia whilst Bisila herself is Executive Director of the Spain-USA Chamber of Commerce, based in New York. Previously she was working for IVEX NYC the agency dedicated to promoting Valencian business in the USA.
In order to repay some of the advantages and benefits they received here in Spain, they have created the Foundation as a not for profit, non-partisan project with a mission to share the gift of literacy with Africa by providing new Libraries, well stocked with targeted books and periodicals which will provide centres for learning and support in creating employment, cultural and technical exchanges in the areas where the libraries are based.
How did the project begin? Well on Bisila´s first visit to Ghana she met a local chief of the Kokofu tribe in the Kumasi Region. To cut a long story short he offered her the title of Queen Development Mother and gave her a plot of land for the first Library! This library was opened in February last year and work now progresses on the next project.
These projects are targeted in Ivory Coast, Senegal, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda and will roll out as funds permit. 5 Million US Dollars is the target to raise by 2015.
However the project does not stop with building libraries…these have to be stocked with books, librarians paid a salary and the projects generally supported and monitored.
This funding is raised in a number of ways. For example last year visitors staying in a particular hotel could leave the book they took to read and receive a discount. More information and the traditional ways such as cash donations and internet transfers are also available and can be found on the projects web-site http://bbalp.org.
Perhaps the best way locally in Valencia to support the project is through the range of wines being made specifically for it by Torre Oria, the bodega situated just outside Requena in Derramador. Here support for the project commenced initially with a range of just three wines a couple of years ago but with the sale of the bodega a new start was made with the new owners and a range of thirteen wines has now been available for around six months. The wine.maker for the project is Raquel Armero Simarro, a graduate of the University Polytechnic of Valencia and the Requena Wine-School. Raquel also worked with Dani Esposito at Dominio de la Vega before moving to Torre Oria last year.
The wines are all DO Valencia because it is felt that the association with Valencia is important. They sell for between 5-10 Euros a bottle and consist of four mono-varietals, ( Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Macabeo and Sauvignon Blanc and a Rosado made from pure Bobal. )
There is also a range consisting of a Crianza with twelve months oak ageing ( French and American) a Shiraz/Tempranillo blend and a pure Chardonnay. Three Cavas , a Brut, a Brut Nature and a Rosé complete the range available here, whilst a Reserva with 18 months ageing and a Gran Reserva with 26 months are aimed at the export market.
All are sold under the Bisila label and are available from SGI Drinks, Pza Barranquet, Valencia. Around ten thousand bottles have been sold so far and the aim is that 10% of the selling price will go to the project.
Of this range I can testify to the quality of the Shiraz/Tempranillo , a bright, youthful purple wine, with fresh and mature red fruit on the nose and a long fruity mouthful, easy to drink on its own or good with barbecues and the Cava Brut Nature, straw yellow with golden hints, very fine persistent bubbles, patisserie on the nose and good acidity with a long dry finish.
I am hoping to taste more wines from the range on a visit to the bodega in March once the building works are complete and have a bottle of the Cava Rosé recommended to drink with a seafood rice dish shortly!
Of corks, sustainability, ecology, the environment and why plastic and screw top bottles for wine are bad and cork is al
So there you go, my favourite 10 wines of this year. Bet they will all be different at the end of 2012! Leer más