The best way to dive into Spanish culture is to spend a day cooking in a huerto (orchard), making one of the most well known Spanish dish, Paella. A day with Mi Paella En El Huerto is one experience that is an initiative that will make you part of this Spanish tradition.
Anyone who wants to visit Valencia cannot miss the opportunity to try one of its most authentic and famous dishes: paella. The story goes that paella was born in the area of Sueca (Valencia), where the best rice was cultivated. Mi Paella en el Huerto is located right in this town, precisely in Riola, 30 minutes from Valencia, surrounded by authentic Valencian nature.
But don’t expect seafood in the Paella Valenciana. Born among the orchards, gardens, and groves around Valencia, the original paella brings on ingredients from the fields rather than the sea. Rabbit, chicken, and a few types of local beans form the heart of this rustic dish.
The experience of Mi Paella En El Huerto greets small groups of friends, tourists, colleagues, and families. In true Spanish form, Gregg and I cooked along with another couple from Canada, intentionally booking this experience on a Sunday. It was a small and intimate experience, which made it that much more enjoyable, as opposed to it being a big group.
The day is not just about learning how to cook paella but also to enjoy all that comes with it. Enjoy spectacular views, explore ecological crops and fall in love with the Valencian culture and culinary arts.
How does a paella day work? There are many hidden secrets, but I can assure you that the chef will not miss any detail for you discover, little by little, the rituals and curiosities that you can experience during this day.
Like most Sunday in many cultures arund the world, it’s a day about spending time with family and those close to you. First, it begins with the preparation of the paella; while you’re cooking, you can take a break with an aperitif made of local products. Once the paella is ready, it’s time to enjoy the work you have done together accompanied by delicious house wine. And, finally, the dessert. The Valencian coca de llanda is a cake with mixed fruits accompanied by a sweet liquor, the Mistela.
What You’ll Need
2 tbsp olive oil
4 boneless chicken thighs, cubbed and skinned
500 g rabbit or strew lamb, cubbed
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper or Anaheim pepper, chopped
1 ripe tomato, chopped (or 1 can)
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces fresh uncooked green beans, washed and ends trimmed
3/4 cup frozen Lima beans
1 1/2 cups Paella Rice (Bomba Rice)
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 tsp saffron threads, crushed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 34 ounce chicken stock
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
7 ounce can plain artichoke hearts ,drained
2 oz Piquillo Peppers, cut into strips
A few small rosemary sprigs
Lemon wedges for serving
What You’ll Need To Know
Heat the oil in the paella pan over medium heat, then add and brown the chicken pieces on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Add and brown the rabbit or lamb pieces on both sides. Transfer to a plate.
Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft and translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add in saffron, green peppers and tomatoes and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Add the green beans and lima beans and cook for a couple of minutes. Lastly add the paella rice, stir and cook for another 3-4 minutes, adding a little more oil if needed.
Position the beans the way you'd like them to appear in the final dish. Pour the chicken stock into the pan. Remember the cardinal rule: DO NOT STIR. Once the mixture begins to bubble, position the chicken pieces in the pan followed by the artichokes and then top with the Piquillo peppers. Place some sprigs of rosemary on top.
Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the rice is done, rotating the pan as needed to cook the rice towards the rim of the pan. At the end of the cooking you can increase the heat for a few minutes to further caramelize the socarrat, the crispy golden-browned bottom.
Sprinkle with some smoked paprika and serve with lemon wedges.