In the mountains of the Costa Blanca, Kelly visits a restaurant where they still make the paella over a wood-burning fire.
By Kelly Simpson
Anyone who has ever cooked paella knows the difficulty of cooking paella over a wood fire. You have to burn the wood at a controlled even pace in order to keep a constant fire and know how to stoke the fire when needed. Today almost everyone uses gas burners to make paella, making it easier to keep the fire at a constant temperature by raising and lowering the intensity of the fire with the controls.
In preparing the paella it is very important to control the fire and enhance it or reduce it as required during every minute of the cooking process. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with gas burners, but the truth is that the wood makes the paellas have a different taste. The taste that the wood gives to paella is directly related to a slow and uniform heat while cooking. This is the traditional way of making paella in most Spanish households. Today you can still find those who make paella over a wood fire and most of the times it is in private homes, among friends or family.
That´s why places that still conserve the traditional way of making paella are quite unique. We love coming with our friends to this restaurant near the mountains of Barx in the Puigmola, because they make a spectacular paella over a wood fire. The paellas here are always delicious!
It is surprising to see the kitchen of this restaurant. The owners and chefs Jose and Inma let me take a behind the scene look at their kitchen and their traditional ways of cooking. It is amazing to see how this couple cook the paella, the organization of the wood and the set up where they cook numerous paellas at once.
The restaurant is called Puigmola and it´s situated next to a natural water source the Puigmola fountain which provides excellent mineral water which is used to cook the paella. The quality of the water is important when cooking the rice and the mineral water of the Puigmola is ideal for cooking paellas. The chefs at the restaurant have perfected the process of and believe that the water holds the secret to their delicious paellas.
The Puigmola is a family restaurant where they have passed down from generation to generation the art of cooking traditional paella with green beans, white beans (garrafo) and artichokes, if they are in season, and with rabbit and chicken, saffron, olive oil and of course, rice. And the process they follow to cook the paella is impeccable. Straight from the chef´s mouth, the following is the process of preparing paella for 4 people:
Put the pan into the fire, add the oil (3 tablespoons) and some salt.
Add the meat and fry. (1/2 chicken and 1/2 rabbit)
Then add the beans and fry with a little meat. (250g of green beans and 100g of white beans)
Add about 2 liters of water (for paella of 4) then add the rice when the water starts to boil. (Add two strands of saffron)
Test and salt to taste if necessary.
The paella is ready in approximately 20 minutes of cooking.
The restaurant is wrapped by mountains on all sides and yet only a 20 minute drive from the sea. The house specialty is the paella made over a wood fire, but they also serve grilled meat and rabbit with garlic. They have a very extensive wine list and I recommend a bottle of their Port Sale No. 12 that combines perfectly with the vegetables and the meat of the paella. In summer I often come directly to this restaurant after a long mountain bike route. After a dip in the pool restaurant, I often enjoy this wonderful paella with my family and friends at a very reasonable price. What else can you ask for? So if you’re in the area and want to enjoy a real wood-made paella I recommend a visit to the Puigmola.
I´m sure you will like it. Buen Provecho!
For more information:
Restaurant Puigmola Part Puigmola S / N Barx,
Valencia Postal code 46758
Tel: 962807008 /606073131
Kelly Simpson, a native of Miami, Florida - has spend more than 10 years living on the Mediterranean coast in Gandia, Valencia. Kelly is the Editor of the Spanish version of Honest Cooking, honestcooking.es.