Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Paella rojo con vino tinto a marriage of three nations


What do you get when you mix bomba rice and belota salame 
with a fruity Portuguese red wine from the Douro?

Days are getting shorter, the weather is cooling, and we aren't quite ready for summer to be over, but we're embracing autumn with open (sweater covered) arms.It is time to start thinking about slightly more hearty dishes. There are so many recipes that call for red wine.That does not mean the ropy old vin de table that remains screw-toppedly half opened by the side of the cooker, but that fruity little gran reserva you have been saving for that special occasion.
It is a truism that there is no point cooking with bad wine,and that the better the wine deployed,the better the dish.This is  a sort of contradiction in terms, for there is not much else you can do with left over wine than cook with it.However when a wine is truly past it,whether its corked or just too old, it´s not going to do much for your cooking.Red wines tend to last longer than whites and this is generally as true when you cook with them as when you drink them.Colour is a good key.When your fresh and fruity country red turns to a vapid and acidic rosé, its gone.I dont know why I just said that, as cooking with "good" rose is not much cop anyway.Wine for cooking,of course, is more likely to be left over from the night before than than from the year before last.Half finished bottles should be married up,,have a cork stuck in them and be kept in the fridge, this will keep them serviceable for a week.If you don´t have leftovers then a robust country red bought for the purpose need not cost very much.There are times and recipes  when left overs just will not do and you have to bite the bullet and you need to fork out for a wine that really fits the bill.Generally speaking,the better the wine,the less you have to cook it.
In the following recipe the wine never really boils  as its flavours are absorbed by the rice, and its earthy flavour makes for a truly unusual and outstanding dish.The dish is loosely adapted from a recipe by the late great Marcella Hazan in her Second Classic Italian Cook Book,in which she uses arborio rice,Italian salami and a fruity Italian red from Piedmont such as a Gattinara,Spanna,Barolo or Barbera dolcetto.A California Barbera would also work  beautifully. 
I however used an Esperão Assobio,a Portuguese wine from the Douro with a deep ruby colour. It is spicy and fruity, revealing an elegant palate showing youthful fruit and fine tannins with good balancing acidity on the finish. Ms. Hazan said" No one who conceived this dish thought small".This is no light,tripping springtime risotto for feeble appetites.What I produced was a merger of three lusty dishes, a risotto from Piedmont and a paella from the marjal de pego paddy fields in the region of Valencia.This recipe also references one of my favourite Algarvian recipes- favas algarvia ( broad beans with bacon and chouriço)

Paella rojo con vino tinto
serves 6
1 onion
2 sticks of celery
2 carrots
2 small turnips
150g spanish belota salame in one piece
50g butter plus more to stir in at the end of cooking
250g bomba (paella) rice
1 bottle of fruity red wine,Barbera, Dolcetto or Assobio
Half a cabbage (about 300g )
400g fava beans podded cooked and skins removed
chicken stock
olive oil

Chop the onion, celery stalks, carrots and turnip into small cubes.Stew vigorously in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.Cut the salami the same size and add to the vegetables.Cook gently for 5 minutes then add 50g butter.When melted, pour in the rice and season with salt and pepper.When well coated and starting to stick to the pan pour in all the wine, stir gently bringing just to the boil.When this in turn starts to stick, begin adding the stock a ladleful at the time.It will take about 15 minutes careful and watchful cooking for the rice to become tender.
While the rice  is cooking shred the cabbage ad blanch briefly in boiling water.Drain and add to the rice with the broad beans.Serve in a large terracotta dish and let everyone help themselves.

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