Cookbook review: Paella by Alberto Herraiz (plus a recipe)
Paella.I don’t think there is a dish more synonymous with Spanish cuisine. Paella is also the title of a new cookbook (Phaidon Press, 2011) by chef Alberto Herraiz. And you guessed it, this publication, is an incredible paella bible!
Alberto Herráiz was born in Castilla la Mancha, Spain, into a family of
four generations of restaurateurs. After running several restaurants in
Spain, he moved to Paris in 1997 to open Fogón, where he has perfected
the art of paella, gaining a Michelin star in 2009.
In the words of the author himself -
My aim in this book is to provide the reader with much more than a mere collection of recipes. The real objective is to explain paella as a culinary technique and show its practical applications in the form of recipes. Italian risotto obeys the same principles, in that it is a simple technique that can be adapted, resulting in limitless variations on a basic theme.
The book is a real eye-catcher which mimics the packaging of a popular line of bomba rice (the perfect rice for paella). It is a white cloth cover with striking red overlocking stitches around the edges.
It features 108 recipes including all the crucial basics for cooking an authentic paella at home the way they do in Spain!
Paella is broken down into six chapters – All about paella, basic recipes, paellas on the stove, paellas on the barbecue, paellas without rice and sweet paellas.
Alberto goes into great detail at each stage, revealing not only the origins and traditions, but also providing a comprehensive guide on the utensils, ingredients and preparation techniques.
Spain, a recipe for paella is an ancestral legacy passed down from
generation to generation. As with all traditional dishes, there is a
great deal of inherited knowledge involved. Each generation of cooks
follows the same procedures instinctively. The way the vegetables are
prepared, the right time to add the stock, the choice of seasonings:
none of these things hold any mystery for them. While respecting the
history of the cooks from who i have inherited these traditions, my task
is to explore and describe everything connected with paella for those
who do not have this culinary inheritance.
And so, there is almost an entire chapter of this cookbook dedicated to the stocks and fumets that are used to cook the rice in a paella.
Alberto also provides a manual on the various types of paella pans, their advantages and drawbacks. The traditional paella pan is made from polished carbon steel, is round in shape with low, slanting sides that curl over slightly around the edge, and has two curved handles set diametrically opposite one another, each one attached to the side with two rivets. Other types include a cast-iron paella pan, modern non-stick paella pans, enamelled steel paella pans, stainless steel paella pans and saute pans.
I love the practicality of his notes which go as far to outlining the size of paella pan required, proportional to the number of guests.
Paella afterall, is a socialable dish made to be shared.
Technically speaking, there is no ‘authentic’ paella recipe because
paella is a method of cooking linked to the pan. While in Valencia,
paella is associated with Sundays and feasting, elsewhere, ‘paella day’
The recipe I’ve featured in this post is commonly seen in Barcelona
on Thursdays, where paella makes an appearance on the menus of
neighbourhood restaurants, bars and unpretentious eateries.
Other recipes in the cookbook range from everyday type paellas, such as paella rice with left-overs (page 82), to the more extravagant – Paella rice with Iberico ham, spring vegetables and foie gras (page 116).
Alberto even pushes the boundaries with a few ‘paella without rice’ recipes and some interesting dessert options such as green tea-scented sweet paella rice with red beans (page 184).
As mentioned above, the recipe I decided to trial is the Arroz En Paella De Barcelona, Los Jueves, a dish that features a diversity of textures. It is made with a luxurious abundance of seafood including monkfish, langoustines, mussels, squid and king prawns.
The original recipe was meant to serve ten but if your oven is anything like mine, then it’ll only fit a 51cm paella pan which serves four, which is why I’ve adapted the recipe.
All the ingredients were easily sourced from the Sydney Fish Market. I even found all the specialty Spanish ingredients at Blackwattle Deli (inside the Sydney Fish Market).
And don’t let the length of the recipe put you off. Once all the chopping was done, the cooking process couldn’t have been easier.
Arroz En Paella De Barcelona, Los Jueves (Barcelona-style Thursday Paella Rice)
Adapted from Paella by Alberto Herraiz
Preparation time: 40 minutes (excluding fumet and sofrito)
Cooking time: 17 minutes (excluding fumet and sofrito)
Fumet preparation time: 50 minutes
Fumet cooking time: 25 minutes + 40 minutes for infusing
Sofrito preparation time: 25 minutes
Sofrito cooking time: 50 minutes
This paella is made on Thursdays in the bars and neighbourhood restaurants (or casas de comidas) of Barcelona, where it is often the daily special. It is cooked on a large hotplate and is served straight onto plates.
Use a pan suitable for use on the stove and in the oven.
Fish Fumet - makes 3 litres, you will need 1.2 litres (or substitute with ready-made fish stock)
3kg white fish bones and heads (such as turbot, red mullet, monkfish, cod or hake, sole) and gills removed
100ml olive oil
1 leek, cut into fine strips
1 carrot, cut into fine strips
1 small celery stalk, cut into fine strips
1 fennel bulb, cut into fine strips
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 dried nora pepper, stalk removed and seeded, coarsely crumbled
100ml dry white wine
1 tsp green anise seeds
1 tsp freeze dried green peppercorns
1 star anise
2 dried fennel stalks
2 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp black peppercorns
Tomato Sofrito – makes 500ml, you will need 200ml (or substitute with pureed canned tomatoes)
50ml olive oil
¼ Spanish onion, finely sliced
½ shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ green capsicum, seeded and cut into fine strips
¼ carrot, cut into fine strips
¼ white part of leek, cut into fine strips
100ml dry white wine
500g very ripe tomatoes, diced or canned peeled whole roma tomatoes, roughly diced
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
100ml olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
400g chicken, deboned and cut into 30g pieces
4 king prawns (jumbo shrimps), heads removed and tails shelled, with the tails reserved
4 langoustines, heads removed and tailed shelled, with the heads and tails reserved
4 monkfish fillets, about 70g each
300g squid, cleaned and sliced into rings
300g large fresh mussels, well scrubbed and cleaned
200g green beans, trimmed and cut into 3cm lengths
50g peas, shelled
1 green capsicum, seeded, skinned and sliced into thin strips
400g bomba or other short-grain rice
1tsp Spanish sweet smoked paprika
⅕tsp saffron threads, toasted and pounded
To make the fish fumet
If you are short of time, good-quality ready-made fish stock can be substituted, although the result will be different.
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Thoroughly rinse the fish bones and heads, and arrange in a layer in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with half the olive oil, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes until lightly browned.
Towards the end of the roasting time, head the remaining oil in a large, deep pan or stockpot and add the leek, carrot, celery, fennel, onion and tomatoes. Gently saute until starting to soften and turn translucent, then add the garlic, bay leaves and nora pepper. Continue cooking over low heat until lightly browned; do not allow to burn.
Pour in the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits on the bottom with a wooden spatula. Once the alcohol has evaporated, add the browned fish heads and bones to the pan and fill the pan with cold water. Bring to a boil, then skim off any scum that has risen to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently, covered, for 25 minutes, skimming frequently.
Meanwhile, toast the anise seeds and green peppercorns in a dry frying pan or skillet until fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the other spices and flavourings in a small bowl.
After 25 minutes, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the spices and flavourings. Cover and let infuse off the heat for 40 minutes. Using a ladle, skim off any oil that has risen to the top; remove any remaining oil by lowering a sheet of paper towel briefly onto the surface. Carefully strain the fumet through a fine-mesh sieve or chinois, without disturbing the ingredients that have settled on the bottom of the pan. Allow to cool completely and chill in the refrigerator until needed.
To make the tomato sofrito
An aromatic, flavoursome mixture cooked in olive oil, sofrito is the first stage of cooking paella. This recipe is for a versatile everyday sofrito and can also be used for many other recipes. Sofrito can be frozen in smaller batches to keep on hand ready for use.
Heat the oil in a large pan over low heat and gently saute the onions until starting to soften (do not allow them to colour). Add the shallot and saute until it is also softened and translucent, then add the garlic and cook until the garlic is opaque. Next, add the capsicum, carrot and leek, and continue sauteing over low heat until these have softened and disintegrated.
When the mixture has thickened, pour in the white wine and use to deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits on the bottom with a wooden spatula. When the alcohol has evaporated, add the tomatoes, rosemary and bay leaf. Simmer very gently over very low heat for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, and add a pinch of sugar to conteract the acidity of the tomatoes. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary.
Pass the mixture through a food or vegetable mill over a bowl, then push through a fine-mesh sieve or chinois, pressing it through well. It is not advisable to use a blender or food processor for this process because this incorporates air into the mixture and alters the colour of the sofrito. Taste and add more salt or sugar if needed. Allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.
To make the paella
Heat the fish fumet but do not allow it to boil. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Bring a large pan of water to a boil, add the mussels and cook for 30 seconds, then drain them and set aside.
Heat the oil in the pan over low heat, add the garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add the chicken pieces and saute for a few minutes until brown all over, then push them to the edge of the pan. Add the king prawns, langoustines, monkfish and squid and saute for a few minutes until lightly browned. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Add the green beans, peas and green capsicum strips to the pan and saute for a few minutes until the vegetables have softened.
Reduce the heat to low, add the rice and cook for a few minutes, stirring with a wooden spatula, until thoroughly coated and translucent; do not allow the rice to burn. Add the tomato sofrito and stir the ingredients well, deglazing the pan by scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula.
Add the smoked paprika, stir through and cook over moderate heat for a few seconds, taking care that it does not burn. Pour in the hot fish fumet, stir until combined and spread out the ingredients evenly in the pan. Add the saffron and grate the zest of the lime over the paella, and bring to the boil. If you have a timer, set it to 17 minutes. Cook over high heat for 5 minutes until the rice rises to the surface of the liquid. Taste and season with salt if necessary, bearing in mind that the flavours will become more pronounced as the liquid evaporates. Put the paella in the preheated oven for 9 minutes.
Remove the paella from the oven and arrange the king prawns, monkfish, quid, langoustines and mussels on the top of the price, put the pan back in the oven for a further 3 minutes, then remove the paella once again. Cover the paella with a clean, damp dish towl, allow it to rest for 3 minutes, then serve.
The result was scrumptious, if I may say so myself.
The very specific instructions and cooking time makes this recipe so fool-proof. I’ve managed to achieve a gorgeous socarret crust every time I’ve cooked this. That is, three times and counting!
Plus, the aroma of the sofrito, fish fumet, saffron and pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika) is simply spectacular.
Paella is truly, a wonderful definitive guide for the home-cook who likes to put on a show.
Published by Phaidon Press
JENIUS received a review copy of Paella, thanks to PEPR Publicity and Phaidon