A few weeks ago, a group of us gathered at Pimenton on Mt. Pleasant, for a delightful evening of tapas & Paella making by the always charming and handsome Jose Arato.
Jose, a former accountant turned pastry chef, who bought Pimenton a year ago and under the careful eye & guidance of former owner, the late Lola Csullog-Fernandez, he learned all the tips & tricks of mastering the art of traditional Paella.
For those of you who’ve never been, Pimenton is a Spanish and Mediterranean store. Jose offers cooking classes, catering, house made gluten free products & delicious Mediterranean food to go.
Among other things, Pimenton has a great selection of beautiful olive oils, as well as a large variety of one of my most favourite spices, smoked paprika.
Once all the food bloggers arrived, we were treated to delicious tapas prepared by Jose & his assistant Laura.
Once we had whetted our appetites with some treats, the class began.
Jose started out by explaining and preparing our dessert, Turrón Ice Cream. I have to say I was extremely excited about this ice cream. I know, me excited about food… what a shocker.
I grew up with Turrón, we ate it at Christmas time every year. There are several types but the 2 best known ones are Turrón de Alicante (this is the hard one) and Turrón de Jijona (soft nougat), my favourite.
With the ice cream out of the way and chilling in the freezer, Jose got right down to business and assigned everyone with different jobs, aprons, cutting boards & knives.
Eating Paella in Panama, where I am originally from, as well as other Spanish foods is to me like eating meat & potatoes is to North Americans. Also, my maternal grandmother was from northern Spain, from Cataluña, to be precise and she cooked all the time. So needless to say I was very much looking forward to this class.
The first thing we prepared was an Escalivada, this is a traditional Catalan side dish.
The name of this dish comes from the Catalan word escalivar, meaning “to roast over ashes or embers,” it is traditional to cook the peppers, eggplant, zucchini etc over a flame. The dish is then dressed with lots of garlic, parsley, lemon & olive oil.
And now for the dish of the night, Paella.
Paella is originally a dish from Valencia, Spain.
There are several versions of this dish with the most widely known one being the Paella Valenciana, also Paella de Mariscos (Seafood) & Paella Mixta (Mixed). Some of the key ingredients are a good quality olive oil, Saffron and Bomba or Calasparra rice. The type of rice is very important in Paella making, Bomba & Calasparra are both grown in Spain in a manner that produces a harder grain, which carries less moisture than regular rice, in turn making it able to absorb more broth while retaining its integrity. Jose knows this very well so we used Bomba rice.
Jose had three “Paelleras” ready on the stove. These are specially crafted shallow pans for cooking Paella.
Then the real fun began, there were people furiously cutting vegetables, dicing chicken, cleaning mussels & clams, chopping garlic & getting all the ingredients ready.
We all moved over to the kitchen at the back of the store to watch as Jose carefully added all the ingredients in the proper order to ensure a successful dish.
The aromas coming from the stove were intoxicating!
And it’s ready!
We accompanied our meal of Escalivada, Chicken & Seafood Paella with delicious Sangria.
Ending our amazing meal with the Turrón ice Cream & some of Jose’s signature gluten free desserts, Tarta de Santiago, an almond torte.
To top it all, Jose gifted each one of us with a small Paellera, smoked paprika & serious high quality olive oil.
The entire evening & class were a huge success. Jose Arato is a natural as an instructor and he knows his Paella.
Do yourself a favour, if you’ve never been to Pimenton, you should. Book a class, go and browse the great selection of products, buy some ready to go delicious Spanish & Mediterranean food, sample some of Jose’s gluten free desserts… just go! You won’t regret it.
Thanks so much for the invite!
Pimenton is located at 681 Mount Pleasant Rd Toronto, Ontario.