Espardenyà, delicious by chance
Paella and rice are not the only way of life in Valencia, in addition to this typical dish in Valencian gastronomy, you can also enjoy other culinary delicacies such as "All i pebre", or the mixture of both: l'Espardenyà, a dish created by "accident".
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The emergence of this dish is told in the story of the fishermen of the area of Palmar and Sueca at the beginning of the 20th century. It came about by accident when two groups of workers were harvesting rice in the Albufera. Just as every other day before, they had met for lunch at the Molí de Baldoví, where each group prepared its own meal. That day, some had understood that they were going to prepare paella and others "All i pebre", but the ones making the paella realised that they had forgotten the rice, so both groups decided to gather all the food and prepare the meal with what they had. And in this way, the dish was born, resulting from the improvisation and the creativity of these workers who mixed all the ingredients of the paella, vegetables and meat with those of the "All i pebre", potatoes and eels. A mix that turned out to be an exquisite dish, thanks to the tasty and gelatinous meat of the eel, which gives this recipe its particular unctuosity and flavour.
Its name comes from the exclamation of one of the attendees, who when he saw the dish said: "Aixó és una Espardenyà!" (“this has a kick!”), alluding to a very Valencian expression that we could translate into Spanish as "un zapatazo" (a kick), and which is often used when the Valencians do something improvised and which results in something that is curious or funny at the least.
Ingredients for four servings::
1 Kg of eels cut into pieces
500 g of chicken
500 g of rabbit
A few pieces of duck
1 sausage piece per person (optional)
1 Kg of potatoes
4 eggs (1 per person)
¼ l of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
50 g almonds
1 head of garlic
1.5 litres of water (approx.)
1 chilli pepper
Preparation of espardenyà:
1.- In a paella pan, add olive oil and fry the almonds with two of the peeled garlic cloves until they are golden brown. Set these aside and chop them finely.
2.- Then, fry the rest of the unpeeled garlic and the chicken, rabbit or duck (you can also use cured meats such as cured sausage) until it is golden brown. Add the paprika and fry it quickly, taking care not to burn it. Add the chili pepper at this time.
3.- Pour the water in without completely covering the meat and let it cook at medium heat for 15 minutes.
4.- Next, add the potatoes cut into pieces as for a stew, and leave on the heat for another 10 or 12 minutes.
5.- Finally, add the eels cut into 10 cm pieces, leave to cook 7 or 8 more minutes and as a final touch, add the finely chopped almonds and garlic. Next, break one egg per person into the stew, and serve before the yolk hardens.