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'You'll Never Get It Right First Time': Lessons From Paella Cooking School In Spain's Valencia – Olive Press News Spain

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IT wasn’t quite what I wanted to hear as I prepared to have a go at cooking Spain’s signature dish: “The first time you cook a paella, you never get it right.”

Yet this novice cook needed to try; I was in Valencia, after all, the home of paella.

Even before we started, it was daunting: I was staring into a roaring open fire with the sun beating down on my back and the heat was exhausting.

I joked to my  teacher Vicente Rioja, a paella cook renowned across Spain,  that I normally  struggled to boil an egg. He did not smile.

Things, I felt, could only get better.

Paella Vv 19877 1024 Foto Mike Water 1

The classic dish, so popular with tourists, usually features a mixture of seafood and meat, but that is not the paella Valenciana. This one uses meat and vegetables.

“Paella is all about getting the tastes of the food absorbed into the rice,”  explained Rioja.

Rice is absorbent and acts as a “conductor” of all the tastes of the mix of meats and vegetables. So when you sit down to eat the paella, it is the taste of the rice which determines whether you have really cracked it.

I placed chunks of chicken and rabbit liver on the heat, nudging them until they were golden. Next came the pureed tomatoes, white beans, green beans and pepper, followed by water.

“Timing is the essence, let’s leave it for about ten minutes,” said Rioja.  “Time for a drink and an aperitif of rabbit livers.” 

In this part of southeastern Spain, rabbit livers, full of vitamins and iron,  are regarded as scraps to keep children full until the main dish arrives.

It did not have the desired effect on my children, who gingerly tasted the rich-tasting rabbit meat. Ice-cold white wine was not an option for them.

Returning to the cooking, we heaped the rice into our dishes and spread the meat to the edges to leave it to simmer for 18 minutes – no more.

Finished! It looked easy, but of course it was far from straight forward.

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And now for the fun bit. Serving my creation to my wife, our eleven-year-old twins and our eldest, a temperamental teenager. Normally, they all moan at my less than perfect cooking.This time they had nothing but compliments. 

We were gathered in the outdoor restaurant of Rioja’s family-run hotel, Hotel Rioja.  Located in Benisanó, a small town north of the city, Rioja is the head chef here and it has become a mecca for chefs from across Spain who come to sample his work.

The region is famous for paella due to its lush green rice fields which cover the deltas of the city’s two main rivers, the Turia and Júcar. Valencia produces 120 million tonnes of the ‘white gold’ as it is called, every year.

A ten minute drive (or bus ride)  south from the city takes you to the Albufera Natural Park, a huge lagoon, which mixes fresh and sea water and supplies the paddy fields around. Here we took a flat bottomed barge with a guide out on its calm, green waters.

Cruising through the reeds, we  saw cormorants and ducks dive-bombing fish.  

During the cruise, Santos Ruíz, the president of the Denomination of Origin of Valencian Rice explained to us it was the Arabs, who ruled the Iberian peninsula until the 8th century, who first introduced rice to Spain.

After the Christian reconquest of Spain in the 13th century, rice was banned at various times because it was believed that it spread malaria, due to the fact that it  grew in damp areas populated by mosquitos. It was not until the 18th century that this theory was disproved.

You can also sign up for paella making at https://paellaschoolmontero.com/. They take you out on a boat on Albufera Natural Park.

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Spain Suffers Ice Shortage – Olive Press News Spain

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THE soaring cost of electricity is being blamed for an ice shortage across Spain as it suffers in the grip of the third heatwave of the summer.

Some supermarkets are rationing bags of ice to just two per customer as a demand outstrips supply.

Much of the ice sold during the summer comes from a stockpile built up during the first half of the year, but as energy prices soared with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, production stalled.

Then when an early heatwave hit in June, demand for ice shot up and supplies dwindled.  

“As it has not been possible to stabilize the costs to be able to sell the ice at the usual market price, the factories stopped production and it is now, in summer, when it is being noticed. The forecast is that in August there will be no ice,” Sergio del Moral, from the Tele Hielo distributor in Madrid, told La Vanguardia newspaper.

As a result the price of ice is also soaring and supermarkets are selling out. Some have been rationing sales by limiting purchases to two bags of ice per customer.

One tip to ensure you never run out is to produce your own ice in freezer trays at home and then store them up in a plastic bag for when you need large amounts if you’re planning a party.

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Beach Bar In Spain’s Malaga Awarded ‘Best Chiringuito 2022’ By Prestigious Gastronomy Magazine – Olive Press News Spain

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THE in vogue Tapas Magazine, a new format of gastronomy guide, together with the emblematic Aperol Spritz aperitif, has awarded the Best Chiringuito 2022 prize to a beach bar in Malaga.

The winner out of a list of the 25 best chiringuitos in Spain has been awarded to MariCarmen Casa Playa, a chiringuito located just 9 kilometres from Malaga City centre.

According to the gastronomic magazine; “MariCarmen Casa Playa, is a magical place difficult (not to say impossible) to forget.”

“Worries, haste, stress and bad vibes have no place there.” Tapas Magazine added.

Their cuisine fuses homemade and traditional dishes with – as they define it – ‘a touch of silliness’ often fusing typical Mediterranean dishes with Asian foods.

Among its star dishes are ‘MariCarmen’s special’ Russian salad with fried egg, scallops pil pil from Malaga with Parmesan au gratin, nigiris or uramakis.

Among the 25 classified establishments were three more from Malaga: Frida Pahlo (El Palo), Alma Playa (Rincon de la Victoria) and La Milla (Urbanizacion Los Verdiales, Marbella).

The Best Chiringuito 2022, MariCarmen Casa Playa, is located at Calle Escritor Alarcon Bonel, 2, in La Araña.

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How Sotogrande Has Greatly Improved It's Food Scene Over The Last Few Years – Olive Press News Spain

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WHETHER you’re looking to see how the other half live or just looking for some decent food, Sotogrande has a lot to offer these days.

There are many good places to dine with a bustling vibe developing over recent years.

This is no surprise considering the wealthy clientele who frequent this privileged enclave, with many now staying open through the winter.

One of the biggest changes has been the development of the port area, in particular in Ribera del Marlin.

It’s a buzzing hive of activity on summer evenings with hundreds of punters fighting for the best waterside tables.

One of the best is superb Foodisiac, which has a distinct swagger about it and manages to be both stylish and cool in equal measures.

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Foodisiac restaurant in Sotogrande. Image from Foodisiac.

It has its own bakery and a large number of different coffees on offer, not to mention some delicious looking cakes and desserts.

The original mix of starters is perfect for a hot summer’s day.

Neighbouring Don Diego has an intriguing mix of Mediterranean dishes fused with Asian and South American cuisine.

Finally, the true godfather of the port Midas is still going strong after over 30 years.

Well established in the extreme, this is THE place for a business lunch or a dinner to impress, sitting right by the main port area.

Interested in Asiatic food, you might also want to try the emblematic La Finca, which sits next to La Casita campsite in San Roque and is another great find.

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Restaurant la Finca in Sotogrande. Image The Olive Press

In summer you sit around a leafy courtyard, a riot of colours and candles, while in winter you dine inside the authentic farmhouse with stone floors and fireplaces.

In the opposite direction, restaurant Mar Sana at the Milla de Plata hotel is a charming spot for an evening meal, heavy on fresh fish with its own speciality tuna menu. Just outside Torreguadiaro, it sits on a headland overlooking a rocky cove with views to die for.

For more casual chiringuito fare a little closer to the resort, head for wonderful Gigi’s Beach, ensconced on the edge of the marina by the sailing club.

The creation of Georgina ‘Gigi’ Taylor, her youthful, hard-working approach to style and taste makes this a surefire winner for local foodies and the international jetset alike.

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