Upon my arrival in Spain, I was delighted to be invited to Chef Juan Perez’s house for dinner. Living close by, we had been smelling the aromas of paella cooking all day. Upon closer inspection, we found that the paella consisted of an unexpected ingredient (at least for us, who imagine traditional paella laden with shellfish), Paella with Iberico Pork Ribs.
No matter the ingredients, paella’s basic recipe remains the same. As with most cooking, it’s the quality of fresh, seasonal ingredients that provide the flavour.
The sofrito provides the basis for all good paellas – a Spanish mixture of traditional, aromatic ingredients diced finely and lightly fried in olive oil. Ingredients usually include garlic, onion, paprika, peppers, bay leaves and tomatoes. This is where the deep flavour of paella comes from. There is, or at least should never be, anything bland about paella.
The Key to the texture? Don’t stir the paella. After an initial mix, don’t touch it – no matter how much you want to. The crust that is formed at the bottom of the paella dish is one of the most important features of the dish. Toasting the rice to just the right degree has become a fine art in Spain, and one that is difficult to master. They say that good paella can be determined even before you taste it; the secret lies in the sound it produces. The sizzling of the sofrito, the bubbling of the stock, the cracking and popping of the rice…
The paella pan is flat and circular and sits, traditionally, on hot coals although, in this case, it sat in a paella oven controlled by gas. Bomba rice, local olive oil and regional Iberico pork ribs sealed the fate of the dish.
The dry-rubbed pork ribs had been marinating for 24 hours, absorbing the garlic and herb flavours handpicked by Juan. Most of us imagine paella to include handfuls of langoustines, prawns, mussels and squid, but the taste of slow cooked ribs ensured a richer, deeper flavour.
Bomba rice is traditionally used in Spain for paella and is known for its ability to absorb liquid, along with the flavours of the stock, pork and sofrito. The more widely available rice Italian variety, Arborio, can be used as a substitute but, unlike Bomba, as it soaks up liquid it becomes a bit more creamy in texture.
As we have said before, regardless of ingredients, the technique is the same. Lightly fry the sofrito, add the meat and brown in olive oil, add the rice and cook until translucent, then add stock and simmer. In this case, the pork ribs were slow cooked for 3 hours prior to being added to the pan.
At the end, there should be a lovely crust (but not burnt!) on the bottom of the pan.
- 2 onions
- 3 chopped tomatoes, skin removed
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 1tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp paprika
- Sea salt and black pepper to season
- Olive Oil to loosen
- Blitz ingredients in a food processor and set aside.
- 400g of Bomba rice
- 1 litre fresh stock - we like a mix of beef and vegetable.
- 600g of Iberico Pork ribs, diced
- 4 artichokes, halved
- 2 onions
- 5 red peppers (we like them roasted in the oven and peeled)
- 1 tin chopped tomato (can)
- 250g green beans
- Olive oil
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp dried rosemary
- 2 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp garlic salt
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- Salt and pepper
- 1⁄4 white wine vinegar
- Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees. Cover ribs in dry rub mixture and add to a dish. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for as long as possible, we recommend 3-4 hours but 2 1/2 at a minimum. Baste once every hour.
- Turn up the oven to 180 degrees. Roast peppers for 1 hour until blackened, add to a glass bowl and cover with clingfilm. When cool, peel and set aside.
- In the paella pan, lightly fry the sofrito and add the meat. Add the artichokes and allow them to caramelise. When soft, add a splash of stock and allow to cook down.
- Now add the rice, stir briefly and allow to toast at a medium temperature. Add 3/4 of the remaining stock and reduce heat.
- After 20 minutes, add remaining vegetables and more stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and allow to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
- Serve, and scrape the crust from the bottom of the pan to serve. Enjoy!