I make no secret of being a paella nut. I could happily eat little else on my travels around Spain. In Valencia I was bewildered at the sheer choice of paella. The variety of the rice or noodle based dishes on offer. On Day One I played safe with the traditional dish.
On Day Two I enjoyed Arroz Negro. Then, on the third day, I sampled fideua for the first time. As virgin experiences go, it was memorable. Fideua actually originates from south of Valencia, in Gandia. The dish comprises noodles and fish stock. I've always liked Vermicelli and the use of it in this unique dish makes for the perfect combination. Saffron is prevalent in a good fideua, as is aioli and a strong fish stock.
The noodles are cooked in a paella pan and, ideally, over an open fire. Clams, mussels and prawns are often the chief ingredients and are lightly cooked. The very business of cooking fideau allows you to vary the ingredients to your own personal taste. As long as you get the fish stock reduced, and the noodles cooked correctly, what else you add to the pan will not detract from the taste.
I think this is a dish that, with a small element of trial and error, any of us can learn to cook just as well as many a Spanish chef. In my experience cooking fideua is second nature to the chefs based in Valencian restaurants. Making your own fideua is not difficult.
This recipe is one of the more typical found in Valencia. You can always make it richer and boozy by adding Oloroso cream to your fideua.
- 1 lb vermicelli pasta
- 1/2 lb fish, such as tunny, halibut or shark
- 2 dry red pepper pods
- 1/2 large red pepper
- 4 to 6 oz. virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 6 cups of fish or shrimp stock
- 1/2 lb large shrimp (20/pound)
- 1/2 lb small clams
- 10 mussels
- 1/2 lb squid
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 4 cloves of garlic
Rinse shrimp, mussels and clams under cold running water and set aside. Pour fish or shrimp stock into a medium saucepan for use later. The stock should be warm. Rinse fish and cut into 2” cubes. Clean the squid and trim tentacles. Slice squid into rings. Slice red pepper into thin strips. Cut each tomato into 8 pieces. Peel garlic cloves and place in a mortar and mash with the pestle. Place the paella pan on the BBQ grate and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom and allow the pan to heat up. When hot enough, sauté the shrimp and squid in the olive oil. Add olive oil as needed to prevent sticking. Once the shrimp has cooked, it will turn pink. Remove the shrimp and squid from the pan and set aside. Leave the oil in the pan. Put the diced tomatoes, slices of red pepper and mashed garlic in the olive oil with the two red pepper pods and sauté for two minutes. Add the fish stock and saffron threads to the pan and stir. Bring broth to a boil. When starts to boil, add the vermicelli and fish and stir. Spread the clams, mussels and squid around the pan and arrange the shrimp on top. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the pasta is “al dente.” Remove pan from the BBQ and leave it to settle for 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy.