In their splendid The Heritage of Spanish Cooking, Alicia Rios and Lourdes March say that in the Valencian mountain interior, rice dishes are based on the broth of a cocido — a dish of boiled meats. The recipe is adapted from one in their book. In Spain today you can buy good cocido broth, but here, use beef or chicken stock.
Use a cazuela or a large shallow casserole that will go both on the stove and in the oven. If you do not have one, start the dish in a deep saucepan, then transfer it to a baking dish. A head of garlic (Valencians call it a "partridge") is placed in the center. Serve it with meatballs or with fried pork ribs and sausages or blood sausages.
1. Drain the chickpeas, put them in a saucepan with fresh water to cover, and simmer for 1 hour, or until they are soft; add some salt once they have begun to soften. Drain.
2. Heat the oil in a large cazuela or casserole that goes in the oven. Add the garlic and half the currants or raisins and stir over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato and pimentón (or paprika) and stir well, then add the chickpeas, stock, and some salt. Bring to a boil, add the rice, and stir well.
3. Place the head of garlic in the center of the rice and sprinkle the remaining currants or raisins over the top. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
4. When serving, give everyone a garlic clove for them to squeeze out the soft inside.
Note: If you do not have a large casserole or a cazuela, start the cooking in a large saucepan and just bring to a boil, then pour everything into a large round baking dish, about 14 inches in diameter. Put the garlic head in the center and bake as above.
Soaking Beans: Beans can be cooked without soaking, but they will take much longer to cook. There are two ways of soaking them to reduce the cooking time:
1. Soak the beans in plenty of water for 6 to 10 hours.
2. The quicker method is to boil the washed beans in plenty of water in a large saucepan for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat, cover the pan, and let the beans soak for 1 hour.
Always drain and then cook in fresh water.
From The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden (Ecco, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by Claudia Roden. Used with permission of the publisher.
"My mother taught me that food was fuel," says writer Elissa Altman. "That food was dangerous. That food was the enemy." As Altman's mother grows older, Altman is finding it difficult to get her to eat.