Here is a humble, hearty, country dish from the province of Zamora in the north-west of Spain. It is widely available in restaurants across the province. It owes its characteristic red colour and distinctive flavour to the pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika).
Most English versions of this Spanish classic one come across are heavily adapted for the English/American palate. The original contains a variety of pig parts such as ears, nose, cheek, tail, trotters – whatever the cook has at her disposal. This version contains careta which is translated as cheek, but which is basically the face. (The butcher was out of ears, but told me this was often used.)
A note about the type of pan to use for this dish: A truly authentic Arroz a la zamorana would be cooked in a shallow clay pot, far too heavy to be transported by bike, so readers will forgive my use of a regular metal pan. However, after making some enquiries on the matter, the consensus was that any wide pot or pan is okay, but that the extremely shallow paella pan, as used by the Valencians, is not appropriate.
200 g round rice
75 g cured Spanish ham (jamón serrano), small dice
100 g meaty pork ribs, cut into 2 cm lengths
100 g pig’s ear/cheeks, 1-2 cm dice
100 g pork belly, 1-2 cm dice
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon thyme leaves
1/2 tablespoon oregano leaves
a pinch or two of colorante (yellow food colouring), optional
a small tablespoon of pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
2 tablespoons of lard or olive oil
1 litre water
Heat the lard or oil in a shallow pan and turn the chunks of cheek, belly and ribs over and over in this for a few minutes until they take on a little colour. Add the chorizo and the ham and keep turning for a minute. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and keep cooking and turning until these soften, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the pimentón and the herbs and give all this a quick stir. Pour the water into the pan and simmer for thirty minutes to produce a flavourful broth. At the end of this time, the liquid should have reduced by about half so and the correct ratio of liquid to rice (2½ : 1) can be achieved. Now drop in the rice, stir it all around and boil strongly for the first ten minutes, then turn it down to a simmer for another eight minutes. At the end of this time the rice should have absorbed most of the liquid and the rice should be just about cooked but still a tiny bit firm right in the centre of the grain. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let it rest for ten minutes before serving. The residual heat will finish cooking the rice.