Following ‘Menja´t Meliana’, the 2nd year Meliana has celebrated a coordinated week of gastronomy in the towns restaurants, the event finished on 25 February with the first competition and 18 restaurants cooking a paella with beef liver in the Town Hall square.
This paella is unusual in that it is found only in the towns of the Horta Nord of Valencia, Alboraya, Meliana, Tavernes Blancas, Massamagrell etc. It is a winter dish and traditional at the time of the matanza following the Festes Taurinas after which the bulls were slaughtered. The liver, heart and sweetbreads were reserved for the traditional paella eaten afterwards.
It is not a dish you will generally find on the menu of restaurants either because the matanza is a family affair carried out in the courtyards of local houses. You can order it when you book your table to eat out but give reasonable notice! In full the ingredients are:- (Paella for 4 people)
- Bulls liver, 100gm, heart 100gm, sweetbreads (lleterola) 100gms and skirt 100gm.
- 2 x lettuce (escarola) .
- chickpeas 400gm.
- grated tomato,
- clove of garlic,
- Olive oil,
- salt, water, 1-2 guindillas and
- DO Valencia rice (400gm)
There is an excellent video on El Racó de Meliana´s Facebook page showing Paco Gimeno, the restaurants chef cooking the paella in the restaurants kitchen.
You begin by frying the diced meats in olive oil and adding the guindillas (the number depends on their heat, 1 or 2 should be sufficient ) and adding salt.
Then add the chopped garlic, pimenton and tomato and continue frying until it has taken on all the colour.
The chopped escarola lettuce is added in a pile on top, continually stirred and cooked down until it almost disappears. The water is then added (up to the rim) and your stock begins to concentrate. During this period of cooking further pimenton and salt may be added. When the stock drops below the handle rivets of your pan the rice is added. The aim is to produce a rice dish which is ‘mellosa’, that is to say it is not dry but equally is not sloppy, it should have a shiny appearance and have a little concentrated liquid.
The paella has the potential to be very dry because of the meat. The more of the lettuce is used it has the effect of turning the dish into something altogether more soft in flavour and tender in texture, adding to the flavour but reducing some of the concentration of meat flavours and softer in consistency. It gives a paella which is still strong in flavour and perfect for a winter dish..as the Spanish say it is ‘contundente’ or powerful!
The participating restaurants in this competition were:-
- Miguel and Juani, L’ Alcudia.
- Bon Aire, El Palmar.
- Casa Granero, Serra.
- La Garrofera,Serra.
- Asador Alfabega, Alginet.
- Avenida 2.0, Massamagrell.
- Bandolera, Cordoba.
- La Cigrona i +, Valencia.
- Nazaret, Playa de Puçol.
- Tabick, Llombai.
- Bon Estar, Valencia.
- Catering La Despensa, Burjassot.
- Estela, Tavernes Blanques.
- Ca Xoret, Meliana.
- La Barraca de Montoliu, Meliana.
- Randurias, Xérica.
- La Pepa, Alboraya.
Paco Gimeno of El Raco (Meliana) also cooked a demonstration paella but did not participate in the competition as his colleague and brother Javier was on the jury.
The morning commenced as usual with the selection of cooking turns for the 18 restaurants and the traditional almuerzo.
Then the restaurants started to produce their dessert entries. This competition was free-style, the entry only having to be based around the Cacau de Collaret, another of the traditional products from the Horta Nord.
The Cacau as it is known here is the shortened version of ‘Cacahuete’, or peanut and is a vegetable which was dying out here until aficionados like Toni Montoliu of Meliana started to do his best to revive them. The seeds are sown in Spring and the plant harvested through Summer until November. It has twin fruits inside the shells and the superior quality and flavour of the local product is indisputable. Unfortunately it is simply not a crop which appears economically capable of mass production locally and is therefore prone to the International competition it faces.
Nonetheless it is versatile in its use (which as well as its indispensability in almuerzos) in ice-creams, turrons, tarts and other traditional confections here in Valencia.
The prizewinners in the competitions on Monday were:-
Concurso de Postre de Cacau de Collaret:-
1º Catering La Despensa de Burjassot
2º La Barraca de Toni Montoliu
3º Restaurant Bon Aire del Palmar
Concurso de Paella de Fetge de Bou:-
1º Avenida 2.0 de Massamagrell
2º Restaurante Nazaret de la Playa de Puçol
3º Tabick Lounge de Llombai.
Prizes were awarded by the Mayor, José Riera Vicente and the Vice-President of the Diputacion María Josep Amigó Laguarda amongst others and the event was sponsored by the Diputación of Valencia, Cervezas TURIA, Empresa Peris de Foios, Ecoama, Xufatopía, Denominación de Origen Vinos de Valencia, Turisme de Carraixet and the Ayuntamiento de Meliana. Commenting on the competition the vice president thanked the organisers for creating a competition which showed so well the products and gastronomy of the Horta Nord and offered the Diputación´s full support for the competitions continuity.
Following the competition and the award of prizes the contestants, jury and press retired to El Racó de Meliana for a gala lunch. On the menu were Pan con Aceite to accompany a salad of encurtidos, vegetables and Caballa, Alli Pebre and Croquettas de Alcachofa.
This was followed by Paella de Fetge de Bou, a dessert of Cacau de Collaret and Cremaet accompanied by the excellent wines of Bodegas Angosto (DO Valencia).