"Traditionally, most rice dishes, including paella, are cooked by men. When we were visiting my aunt Carmen in Córdoba she took us up to the hills with her boyfriend Isidro. It's fascinating to watch the ritual that the male chef makes of cooking. I suppose it's half to do with putting on a show and half a way to remember what comes next. Isidro made a little fire and let it burn down, adjusting the wood and eventually the coals. He carefully browned the rabbit pieces, slowly made the sofrito in a perol and, with understated flair, half dropped/half flung the rice into the pan like a peasant farmer broadcasting seed. Waiting for a meal to cook in the open air only intensifies one's hunger and this rich, vibrant, creamy perol with chunks of browned meat and flashes of green beans was one of the best I've ever had." - Frank Camorra, MoVida
- 1.6 kg chicken or rabbit, cut into 12 pieces
- 80 ml olive oil (1/3 cup)
- 1½ onions, finely chopped
- 1 red capsicum, finely chopped
- 1 green capsicum, finely chopped
- 5 tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
- 100 ml dry white wine
- 1.5 litres hot chicken stock (6 cups)
- 200 gm runner beans, cut into 3cm pieces
- 300 gm Calasparra rice (see note)
- 4 cloves garlic
- ¼ tsp saffron threads
- ½ tsp sweet Spanish paprika
- ½ tsp thyme leaves
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- 1Thoroughly season chicken or rabbit pieces with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat olive oil in a perol (see note) or large heavy-based casserole, add chicken pieces and brown for 4 minutes on each side, then remove and cover with foil. Add onion to perol and cook for 10 minutes or until soft but not coloured, then add capsicum and cook for 10 minutes or until soft. Add tomato and cook for another 15 minutes. (This is called sofrito; cooking it slowly and gently for a long time intensifies the flavour and is the key to all good Spanish rice dishes.)
- 2Add wine, bring to the boil, then add hot stock and reserved chicken, increase heat to medium, bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes or until stock has reduced by about a third. Add beans and rice and stir through.
- 3Meanwhile, combine garlic, saffron, paprika, thyme and peppercorns in a mortar and, using a pestle, pound until well crushed. Add a few tablespoons of hot liquid from the perol and mix well, then add spice mixture to the perol and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes or until rice is just tender and chicken is well cooked. Remove from heat, stand for 10 minutes, then serve.
Note Calasparra rice is grown in the village of the same name in the Murcia region of Spain. The plump, round grain absorbs three times its quantity in liquid, but it is not creamy so the grains remain firm. A perol is a traditional Spanish pan with deep sides and rounded edges, available from Spanish delicatessens and specialist cookware stores.