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.
Chef Sean Brock, author of Heritage, grew up in a town where seed saving was a way of life. "You just saved these seeds not because you were poor, but because you really loved the flavor of a particular tomato or a particular bean," he says.