Cooking over wooden flames is the original method and this is it is the classic, the ultimate, the dogs bollocks: using small pieces of wood, prunings or large kindling are perfect; naturally in Valencia orange trees abound as do there prunings, which is a great advantage, but you can find largish kindling foraging around. It is worth attempting this if you have the space and the wood. Of course, if you have a fire place and a brazier you are away, but you could rig something up for a summer outdoor event. It really gives the rice a distinct flavour and the fierce heat will give a great soccarat, which is the term for the caramelized rice at the bottom sought after by aficionados Naturally this can be cooked over a gas hob and finished in the oven when the stock is reduced a bit (a high oven is good, say 220 - 240) and will still be delicious, but not the same adventure.
The two indigenous ingredients to Valencia that give it a particular character are easily replaceable at little loss overall:
Pebrella is a wild thyme that give the stock it’s characteristic flavour, but any type of thyme will suffice.
Garrafon beans are a local white bean, large like a butter bean, but flat. These are used fresh when available, but any dry white bean, soaked and cooked will suffice.
The ingredients I give are not measured, but two or three pieces of meat per person will suffice and the other ingredients you can estimate according to the number of people and the size of the paella pan. 50 - 60 g of rice per person is good. Bomba is most forgiving, it is very difficult to overcook, but any paella rice is good.
A NOTE ABOUT COOKING IN THIS MANNER.
In order to control the cooking process only small pieces of wood and kindling should be used so that you get a roaring flame but it dies down quickly unless it is fed more fuel. Also, it is particularly important, rather liked stir frying that you have everything prepared ahead of time and very easily accessible as once as once you start you have no time to find things and difficult to pause. It can be hot work so make sure you have plenty of tea towels.
Chicken legs are best as the don’t dry out. On the bone, cut into three unless very small
Rabbit, cut into pieces of similar size to chicken
Grated fresh tomato in season (Simply grate skin and all on the coarsest part of a grater) or chopped canned tomato
Artichokes, trimmed, the choke removed and cut into sixths, depending on size. Keep in water with some lemon juice.
Cooked chickpeas and their liquid. The liquid is flavoursome
Cooked white beans and liquid
Good chicken stock
Saffron, toasted and ground
Boil the stock with the bunch of thyme to infuse the flavour.
Season your meat all over.
Light your fire. As soon as the flames are getting going put the paella on the brazier or whatever rig you have.
Pour in some olive oil into the pan.
Put the meat in the pan. The chicken must go skin side first for those pieces with skin on one side.
When the meat is browned remove the pan to turn the meat over.
Build up the fire again if necessary and return the pan. Add the artichokes, being careful as the water will create big flames from the pan. Then add grated tomato.
As per photos below:
Add rice, saffron, chickpeas, beans, garlic and finally stock.
At this stage add fino or manzanilla and season. If you feel brave when it is nearly done feed the fire a bit to try to caramelise the rice at the bottom, being very careful not to burn it.
Garnish with chopped parsley and strips of your red peppers.