Sunday 7 October saw the gastronomy competitions move on to Catadau, the theme now firmly planted in ‘platos de la cuchara’ as the season moves further into Autumn. The competitions for Paellas concluded with the Sueca International competition won by father and son team, Raul and Jordi Magraner (Bon Aire – El Palmar) taking the prestigious prize, a result widely lauded as Raul was only a few short weeks ago seriously ill in hospital.
This weekend the theme was ‘arros de fesols i naps´, a traditional `olla´ or stew cooked in an onda over a wood fire popular in many towns throughout the Valencian Community the recipe for which is different only for the spices in the black puddings and the need for an even competition for the participants. This was the first time the competition has been held and 25 restaurants and a catering school were invited to participate in the Plaça Bosch Marin.
The day started with the traditional almuerzo of competitors and press and the draw for place and cooking order. The competitors were:-
Abundi de las Escaldes, Engordany de Andorra.
Casa Eladio de Llombai.
O´Donnell de Cabañal de Valencia.
Honoo de Valencia.
Gambrinus de Siete Aguas.
Tabick de Catadau.
L´Alfabega de Alginet.
Ros Estudio de Llombai.
Granja de Sueca.
Ca Agusti de Sueca.
Salones de Eventos Cancela de Sueca.
Picanterra de Cullera.
Oryza de Sueca.
Lluna de Alzira.
La mar Sala de Cullera.
Visteta de Barx.
Ca Tomas d ‘ Alzira.
Meson Tous de Tous.
El Lloc d’ Alzira.
IES Llopis Mari de Cullera.
Trencadish de Valencia.
Assoc Gastronomia Falla el Mercat d’ Alzira.
Once again the jury was led by Juan Carlos Galbis with Luis Ribera Director of Alcudia´s Fira Gastronomia and Concurso de Putxero., Julio Tormo TV Mediterraneo, Fernando Ferrero of La Succursal Mariano Clemente ( Cotonero eventos) Juanma Romero journalist with ES Radio.
The arros itself is a suitably rib-sticking stew of beans, turnip, cardoons, parsnip, pork (including trotters halved , shoulder cubed) spine, ears, black pudding, white pudding, with olive oil, saffron and water which is cooked for three hours, starting with the meats, then the root vegetables, the green veg, the beans and finally the rice is added for the last 15-18 minutes. Interestingly as it is now a matter of debate how to best use saffron one or two contestants clearly added it in infusion rather than in stamens and the colour was markedly different.
The ingredients were all prepackaged for the contestants and the saffron was from Desbrin, a high quality product from Castilla La Mancha but which needs careful use as it is a powerful colourant and flavouring agent. As the photograph shows there was a wide-ranging variation in colour between the final arroces. The cardoons and the root vegetables are cleaned and the meat chopped before the cooking starts and the aim is to make a rich stock which thickens when the (bomba) rice is added. Tartana were again the supplier of the rice from the Albufera used in the dish.
And it is amazing how different these stocks can taste when the ingredients are the same. The better the depth and the salt point the more flavour the final dish will have (remember that Valencian rice absorbs all the flavour) and the contestants are always willing to seek opinions or confirmation from the press!
The judges marked this contest on the colour, how well the rice was cooked and the tenderness of the meat in the dish. Not surprisingly in this 1st edition there was a wide variation in colour and state of the rice.
The meat is plated with the vegetables and a separate bowl of rice in stock which should be sloppy (meloso) but not swimming in it. These are then presented to the judges whilst the contestants wait for the result. This is one of the better competitions in that it is possible to try all the entrants. The press discussed the likely winners, Picantera, Gambrinus (for presentation and flavour) Oryza, Tahbick, La Granja (for the flavour of the stock) amongst others were all considered possible winners.
When the result were announced they were:-
1st Bon Aire, El Palmar.
2nd Oryza de Sueca.
3rd Meson Tous de Tous.
For Raul and Jordi Magraner of Bon Aire in El Palmar this was the second successive win in a gastronomy competition. Gastro tourists now have two prizewinning dishes to try at their restaurant assuming that you can book a table ( since the Sueca competition Bon Aire has been very busy).
This was another excellent first concurso for this dish which now firmly has its place in the canon of Valencian Gastronomy.