May 31, 2010

Creamy guacamole with plantain chips


I really like guacamole, but I’m not always so lucky as to find avocados right for it. Here in Spain there aren’t many varieties available. When I looked into the world of avocados and found that there are sooo many different ones available, I realised I’d be lost out of these few imported varieties. Basically, here you can find Hass and one or two other smooth skin varieties. I always go for the Hass type, specially for this dip, as it has a creamier consistency when ripe (or it should, at least!). To choose a hass for guacamole, it should be really ripe, the skin turns from green to brown and if you press lightly near the stem it will feel soft but not completely give in (it would be over-ripe or wounded!).

Once I have the avocado for the dip, time to find fresh coriander, still not so easy to find…but luckily a few South American small shops near where I live have started offering it as it is so commonly used in their cuisine. Actually, in ours too! though not in the Península, but in Canary islands! It is the main ingredient of their well-known “mojo verde”.

Now about the plantain chips…I lived in Cuba for a few years and “mariquitas” as they call them are common to find. I’ve seen various other South American countries that also prepare them, though with different names, one of them being “chifles”. They are delicious! Crispy like potato chips but with a much more defined taste.  Some chef must have imported the idea here is Spain, for in the last 4 years I’ve seen it served here in “fashion” restaurants ;)! But to make it cooler…instead of the plantains being sliced into rounds along its length, they are sliced lengthwise to make them more appealing.


The truth is that either tastes great and makes a great match for guacamole to substitute the usual corn chips. I like the larger ones as otherwise you’ll dip in your fingers along with the chips into the guacamole! But an easier way to slice them is at an angle (oblique) to make for a larger chip but not it’s entire length with makes slicing a bit more complicated (with a slicer machine or with a mandoline). Of course the ends are way to difficult, but nothing is wasted!…I use them to make tostones, also known as “patacones”, double-fried thicker-sliced plantain chips. These I like even better, but on their own, tasty soft inside…and crispy outside! I hope you enjoy it all!

Plantain chips & guacamole

(serves 4 as a dip)

For the guacamole:

2 avocados (they were 300g and once peeled and without the stones)

~12g fresh lime juice (use less to start with and adjust to taste)

~5g fresh coriander (a handful)

10g fresh spring onion (or purple onion)

(optional: rind of 1/4 lime)

(optional: 1/4 clove of garlic)

(optional: ~5 or 6 fresh mint leaves)

(optional: pinch of cumin)

1 bird-eyes red chile (or less to taste)

salt and freshly milled black pepper

~15g extra virgin olive oil

For the chips:

1 green (really unripe) plantain

neutral oil for frying


First we prepare the chips, so to remove the hard skin of this tough unripe plantain, I recommend you use a glove (on whichever hand you use) as if it gets under you nails, 1) it can hurt, as it is so tough, it goes in further into it as you press to break it open and 2) cause it oxidises and goes dirty brown in no time! So like with artichokes, I always use a glove. Then just cut lightly both ends and make a very  light incision along it’s length. Start at one of the ends pulling out to remove the tightly adhered skin from each side.


To slice it, like I said, you will need either a slicer machine or a mandoline. I managed with a small mandoline…pressing the whole plantain along it’s length with a kitchen towel to get thin even strips. If you haven’t got a mandoline, you can make slices at an angle with a knife. They obviously won’t look the same, but it’s easier and makes longer chips.

Have ready a piece of parchment paper to place the strips you make.


Finally just warm up to medium high the oil and fry them. To fry, add one at a time and make sure it doesn’t curl too much as they can fold in half! Add a few to cover the surface of the oil and fry until it almost stops bubbling, which means they’ve dehydrated enough.


Remove them onto kitchen paper or a tray to strain. Continue to finish them all.


As it is difficult to manage to get strips for the whole plantain, you can use up the thicker end to make tostones. Just turn the oil off to cool for a while, as you want it to slow cook the thicker pieces (like when making thick chips). Cut the length into 3 or 4 pieces and place them in to slow-fry. When they start to colour, take one and pinch, it should be soft inside. Then, remove them all and press them in between aluminum paper, kitchen or parchment paper with a pestle or a rolling pin or whatever works! to flatten the pieces by half!


Meanwhile preheat the oil to high and when ready fry them enough to get a nice golden colour!


Time to make the guacamole…you leave it for last to avoid oxidation!

Cut your avocados in half and remove the bone attached to one side by stabbing a knife and turning it to release the bone.


I was lucky to get green unbruised avocados, but they could have been riper and creamier! But well…Last time they were brown! so I can’t complain!

Cut each half in pieces and place into a bowl.


Add some of the lime juice (less than half a lime) to prevent it from losing it’s gorgeous colour! About the lime juice, be careful, ripe, creamy avocados might benefit from more, but not so ripe ones with feel sour with the same amount!

Break it all up a bit with a fork to mix in the juice well


Ah, keep at least one of the bones in, they help avoiding oxidation. In fact, if you don’t eat all the guacamole, if you return it in, it will help avoiding discoloration.

Optionally, this with the other “optionals” in the list I learnt from a great chef I worked with, who amongst other things taught me the possibilities of citrus rinds on food preparations. In this case, it gives it a fresh lime taste. Just avoid grating any white, as it is bitter! Just a pinch of this grated rind makes a big difference. It is not traditional in guacamole but it is really nice!


Chop up the coriander into thin strips and add it, along with the fresh mint leaves (another non-traditional that I think is really nice). I know sooooo many people dislike coriander, if that is your case, don’t include it, but to me guacamole without coriander is not the same!:(

Optionally, you can grate a pinch of fresh garlic (one of the non-traditionals) but enriches the dip!

Also, chop up the spring or purple onion finely and add it in.

Time for spicing up your dip! I like to use fresh chile, but if you can’t be bothered, use a bit of dried one. Since it is not easy to find them here neither whenever I buy a pack I freeze them (as I do with vanilla pods) and that way they keep almost like fresh! This one is frozen, for instance


Remove the seeds and chop it up finely into thin strips and then the other way around, to make it as small as possible.

Finally, season with salt and freshly milled pepper and a pinch of cumin (it is really nice and if used right, just a pinch, you cannot tell it’s there) and emulsify with some extra virgin olive oil…This will make the lime flavour milder, so account for this and taste it again to adjust lime juice if needed.

And it’s ready to…dip in your fingers!!! or…your plantain chips!!I hope you like it!


At least the presentation will appeal your guests!


A close up…


I forgot to mention that to keep it, aside of adding the bone back, whichever means of avoiding oxigen works, so either place it in a piping bag or in a bowl with film touching the surface directly pressing it in to remove any air in between, or even some oil over to protect the surface. But sadly, the discoloration is inevitable, this will just keep it green for longer…so eat it before that happens!

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May 23, 2010

Citrus pecan nut “muhammara”


Muhammara is a tasty, mildly hot Middle-Eastern dip made mainly from roasted red peppers, walnuts, breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, dried aleppo pepper flakes, olive oil and optionally spices, most often cumin. Aleppo peppers, which I unfortunately have not yet tried, are native to Aleppo, a town in the north of Syria. The small peppers are dried and crushed into flakes of bright red colour. From what I’ve read they have a very particular taste, being mildly spicy and fruity with a hint of smokiness and a cumin-like aroma. For that reason, it is often substituted with other dried mildly hot peppers and a bit of powdered cumin.

I first discovered this dip through this fantastic blog (it’s a pity that she is now writing less often, though). The second time I made it I was out of walnuts, but had just bought pecan nuts, not easy to find here, so gave it a try with them. I loved the result! I think the pecan nuts give it more personality without hindering the roasted pepper taste, simply adding a sweeter nuttier note…compensated with the lemon juice and I personally like to add some of the rind as well. So, now most of the times I make this dip, I use pecans if I have.

In terms of texture, you can adapt it to your taste, adjusting the amount of nuts and breadcrumbs to that of roasted pepper flesh. Though, increasing the relative amount of nuts will affect the final flavour, whereas increasing that of the breadcrumbs will just thicken it and make it “milder” in overall flavour. In fact, whenever I have a dip that I want to thicken, breadcrumbs always do the trick! Like baba ganuj or piquillo peppers and onion dip…almost anything! Most muhamara recipes make a drier paste, but I like to make it creamier to use it as if it were a “pesto” sauce…


I think it was last week that my brother sent me a link to a recipe from the NY times, it was green asparagus pesto, which honestly had never occurred to me. Recently I wrote a post on coriander pesto, with cashew nuts, which I really like, just as an example of how we can play around with the traditional “genovese pesto” (basil and pine nuts) recipe changing the basic ingredient and the nut used. But, this article really brought me to reflect on the possibilities this basic italian sauce has to offer.

Pesto comes from the italian verb “pestare” which means to pound. Thus, although it is often associated to the basil pesto, or even the sundried tomato “pesto rosso”, it can be extended to any pounded (well, now most often processed!! :) ) sauce based on a flavourful ingredient thickened with a nut, seasoned with a dry cheese and emulsified with an oil. So, think of the endless possibilities!(the different main ingredients, the nuts and the oils!) So many aromatic herbs will do…I’ve also recently read another excellent blog’s post on celery leaves and almonds pesto, which also had not crossed my mind before! Rocket or arugula pesto is now common to find. I thought of fennel leaves, which I love, typed it and found various recipes on the web.

Further from aromatic herbs, other cooked vegetables with a defined taste will do, as the green asparagus example. So, to me, muhammara is a variation of pesto that includes spices and excludes the cheese. But could well be made into a roasted red pepper pesto including the parmesan cheese and another herb to go with it…I’d like to try as well to dehydrate the peppers slightly as we used to do in a restaurant I worked in, to intensify the flavour (it actually changes) adding a reduction of Sherry (Jerez)wine vinegar and Pedro Ximenez sweet wine. I swear the combination with the semidried red pepper was incredible! So, if I make a “pesto” from it I will let you know about the outcome!


For the time being, I hope you enjoy this delicious sauce as a dip or to accompany grilled meats, or as a pesto for pasta dishes amongst other uses. Here’s also an example of it in a pasta dish…On the coriander pesto post I mentioned kritharaki or orzo pasta (shaped as rice) well, this is a way of serving it with muhammara, marinated grilled chicken and grated smoked cheese. I hope you enjoy it and hope to leave you munching on the idea of the endless possibilities of pesto making!

Muhammara with pecans

250g roasted red peppers (or 3 large fresh red peppers)

50g pecan nuts

30g breadcrumbs

30g extra virgin olive oil

1 small garlic clove

1/3 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp lemon juice

rind of 1/2 a small lemon, grated

pinch of smoked salt (or plain fine salt)

freshly ground black pepper

parsley to decorate

First, roast your peppers, if you can do it over coals, better, to impart the smoky aroma. If not, but if you have gas hobs, do it over the direct flame as shown here. For this, though, the intensity of the fire has to be quite powerful…some home burners are too low for this. Lastly, the method I used, since I have neither of the previous…but works well is to do it in the oven. But at 220ºC minimum to burn the skin for the smoky taste. If you use this method, preheat your oven to 220ºC or even 240ºC, wash and pat dry your whole peppers. Place on a tray over aluminum paper for easy clean up and drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle some coarse salt over. This should take about 30 minutes, no need to turn them or anything. Remove and let cool (you could wrap them to peel easier, but no need if well roasted).


Then, peel the peppers, remove the seeds and place over a sieve to remove excess juices. You can roast the peppers days ahead and keep until ready to make this recipe.


Toast your pecans on the oven for about 10 minutes at 150ºC to intensify their nutty flavour.


Place all ingredients except the olive oil into the processor: The peppers, the nuts, the breadcrumbs, the grated garlic, the grated lemon rind, the lemon juice, the spices, some of the smoked salt (to intensify the smoked flavour) and process until smooth.


Finally add the olive oil to emulsify the cream and adjust seasonings and lemon juice to taste.


Like I mentioned before, the resulting muhammara is quite creamy, if you prefer a thicker paste, add some more breadcrumbs and a bit extra olive oil. In that case you’ll probably need a bit more lemon juice to compensate for the olive oil.

It will keep well over a week in the fridge. To serve as a dip, just griddle some pitta bread or mexican tortillas and cut them into small pieces.


These are the “tortillas” I always buy and keep excellent in the fridge for months! They are super tasty! The best I’ve tried, sold fresh (in the fridge section) as opposed to those stored at room temperature. They just need a bit of toasting on both sides on a pan or griddle to accompany any dip or dish!


To serve, sprinkle the muhammara with some chopped parsley (or fresh mint) and a drizzle of olive oil)…To lick your fingers!


For the orzo pasta dish just boil enough orzo for 3 people. Meanwhile open up a chicken breast into a fillet, so it cooks faster (and has more surface that browns…those delicious Maillard reactions!) season it with salt and freshly grated pepper and to go with the muhammara, rub it with a grated clove of garlic, some grated lemon rind and a drop of olive oil. Preheat a pan over high heat and griddle it until golden brown on both sides. Give it a minute to cool and shred it with your hands.

Mix the orzo, muhammara and shredded chicken and to serve grate some cheese (I used a smoked spanish cheese), sprinkle some freshly milled pepper, some chopped parsley and drizzle a bit extra olive oil. That simple! It’s delicious!


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May 16, 2010

Bacalhau à Braz…scrambled fish & chips!



Continuing with portuguese recipes, this delicious dish I first tried here in Spain in a Portuguese restaurant whose specialty was “bacalhau” (salted cod). From what I’ve read, the portuguese were pioneers on this way of conservation through dehydration by means of salt back in the 16th century. Although I am often reluctant about how authentic foreign cuisine restaurants really are (as often they must adapt to local taste and lose their genuinity), I must admit that this one was faithful to it’s traditions (after contrasting with the same dishes tried in Portugal). At the time I didn’t know that, but when on the shared (and filling) degustation menu they brought “bacalhau dourado” I could have finished it all on my own! I absolutely loved it!

I have to say that I do like salted cod, when it’s good quality (not dry with “scourer” texture!! which sadly happens way too often) and not overcooked…I like it raw on salads (shredded or thinly sliced), confit to butter-soft consistency on its own or with other sauces like traditional “pil pil” or “salsa verde” or a caramelised tomato sauce with fried peppers. Also delicious fried with a beer paste (like fish & chips) or like a dip in brandade amongst others. But this presentation was absolutely new to me and I already wanted it to be part of my repertoire! Basically it’s a sort of creamy scrambled eggs mixed into matchstick-size fried potatoes, almost caramelised onions and confit shredded cod. It reminds me of our comforting “huevos rotos” but more refined and super tasty!!


On our trip to Portugal I couldn’t find it on any of the restaurants’ menus…until half-way through our trip we asked for a cod dish named “bacalhau à Braz” which we had no clue what it was. And there it was! the same dish I’d been searching for! Apparently, in Portugal it is often known as “bacalhau à Brás” or “à Braz” honouring it’s creator whose surname was Brás but at that time the “s” was often written as a “z”, thereby both names are used interchangeably. It is only in areas close to Spain that it’s renamed as “bacalhau dourado”. In analogy to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”…However you decide to call it, it will be equally delicious! So I strongly encourage you to try it. The recipe that follows can be adapted to make it “express” using rehydrated salted cod and a bag of matchstick fried chips, if your excuse is a matter of time!I hope you enjoy it as a starter or main dish! Since it’s quite filling, a side salad would be nice!


Bacalhau à Braz

(enough for 2 main dishes)

250g rehydrated salted cod (or about 200g salted cod)

450g potatoes (better if they are on the “floury” side)

150g onion

3 bruised whole garlic cloves

~35-40g extra virgin olive oil (for the onions and cod)

oil for deep frying the potatoes

3 or 4 eggs (60g each)

salt and freshly milled black pepper

Some parsley for decoration (or fresh coriander)

optional: some black olives for decoration

If you have salted cod, which I always prefer to buy to hydrate and desalt myself, wash off excess salt and place it in a tupperware large enough to hold the cod pieces side by side and 3 times their volume of cold water and place in the fridge.

Ideally the whole pieces will take anywhere from 36 to 40 hours depending on how big they are. And the water must be changed about 4 times replacing it with the same volume every time. You don’t want to remove all the salt from the fillets, just to hydrate and remove excess salt, so if in doubt pick a little bit of flesh from the center to taste how salty it is.


I hydrated two fillets, one for this recipe and the other for something else…once hydrated, which is what takes time, if I am not going to use it within a day I dry it well, wrap it in kitchen paper and then film it and freeze it. It keeps great and then you just need to pull it into the fridge the day before you want to use it!

Peel and cut your potatoes. I have a mandoline that slices into matchstick strips so I used it to save some time. But to be honest, if I have the time, I prefer to cut them myself slightly larger, as they have more “body” in the dish. If you have to do it yourself, slice each potato into thin rounds lengthwise and then place them together to slice into thin strips.

Before frying it’s best to wash off excess starch so they don’t stick to each other and drain them well.


Deep fry over high heat otherwise they’ll soften and soak up oil


Cut the onion in fine julienne…


Then place it with the bruised garlic cloves and the 35g of olive oil into a pan large enough to fit the fried potatoes and the cod and fry over low heat until very soft and starting to go golden brown. I always add some salt to fry the onions…but if you think your cod is still slightly salty do not add any salt to these or later on as the cod will season enough!


At this point you can remove the cloves or leave them in if you like.

For cooking the cod there are various options. You could add the whole fillet to the onion and slowly cook it and then separate it into it’s own flakes. Also, you could confit the fillet with olive oil slowly in a separate pan and then flake it and add the flakes into the onion to keep the mix drier. The way I did it was to shred the raw fillet itself and add that to cook slowly (you DO NOT want to overcook it) with the onion. But if you prefer to see flakes rather than shredded cod, choose the other method.


Finally, you have two choices: to add the chips into the mix first and then add the beaten eggs to that, which will result in a creamier, softer bacalhau à Braz or you can scramble your beaten eggs slowly into the cod-onion mix and when starting to become creamy add in the chips which will result in a more crunchy dish as the potato will not soak up the egg, so it will soften less and maintain it’s texture. It’s up to your taste!

It is most often done, as I’ve done here, adding the chips first and then the eggs, but feel free to try both methods and decide which you like or which you prefer each time.

Like I said, I added the chips first, so the result is creamier rather than with texture…But sometimes I do it the other way around!


Finally add your beaten eggs. I’ve used 4, but you could well cut up to 3 if you also want just enough egg to bind but keep more texture. Whichever amount you use, I do strongly suggest that you scramble them over medium heat being careful to not overcook or your dish will be dry! (but some people like it that way…in fact, scrambled eggs in Spain are often served that way!:( I prefer it the french way…to get creamy not completely set scrambled eggs).

And serve!!!!Some chopped parsley (or coriander) for colour, a sprinkle of freshly milled pepper and some black olives to decorate (and for taste!)


See how creamy it is?


Just one last note, the amount of cod I’ve used I think it’s enough to flavour the dish but some people like almost the same amount of cod to potato. This may sound obvious, but adjust the amount of cod to your taste (or your pocket :-) clearly potatoes are cheaper!). Similarly increasing the amount of onion up to 200g is still nice, over that I think it’s too much, but experiment!

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May 9, 2010

Memories… Tavira’s “arroz marinheiro”(seafood rice)


Two years ago we drove off to Portugal to make our way from North to South. As with all journeys, there’s so many memories you take back with you, some about the places you visit themselves, others about the people you meet on the way, or about particular traditions…but since I always make a special place for the gastronomy part in our trips, there’s always something food-related I take back with me. Be it a dish, a cooking technique, an ingredient or utensil that strikes me. Sometimes that “something” is just interesting, but other times… it is just unforgettable!

This is one of these unforgettable memories! At the end of our trip, we went to a fishers’ town named Olhâo because that week it was the “Festival do Marisco” (seafood festival) which we read was worth the visit. But, precisely for that reason, there was not a room available in town! So we ended up in Tavira, also a former fishers’ town, but much more picturesque, a bit more than 20 km away. From there, one day we went to the Seafood fair, with great expectations…But it ended up being not worth the high entrance fee!! We felt cheated with the little variety of seafood offered and ridiculously overpriced.


So, having arranged our stay just to go there, we were terribly disappointed until…the next day we had our dinner at Restaurante Avenida in Tavira. We had tried “arroz de marisco” or “ arroz marinheiro” before (even in the restaurant of a fish market) but nothing like the one we were served there that day! If I were to translate it into english, I’d write “out of this world creamy seafood rice”. Just to tell you that we weren’t really hungry and after finishing the huge casserole “for two” (when in Portugal they say for 2, it serves 4!!!) we considered asking for another one! Honestly!!It was that good!!

That taste has stayed with me until a year later it hit me that I had to learn how to make it! I searched the web for any reliable recipes but didn’t find anything that reminded me of that one. So, with the basic ingredients in mind, and looking at the lame photos I’d taken, I had a go at it…What a surprise when the result was just as I remembered! I wouldn’t dare say better or worse, but to us, it was just perfect! I took good note on how I did it and have made it quite a few times since, and always results in that tasty super rich seafood rice I have in mind from Tavira. I hope you try it and like it as much as we do! Bom proveito!


Arroz marinheiro Tavira (creamy seafood rice)

(serves 4 people as a single dish)

For the stock

~1200ml of Water

~250g of monkfish head bones (they are like osso bucco filled with gelatin)

         or monkfish cheek meat

For the “sofrito”

generous Olive oil (extra virgin) to cover the surface of the pan

1 small onion

1/4 of a green pepper

1/4 of a red pepper

5 cloves of garlic

1/4 tsp hot paprika (pimentón picante)

~450g of ripe tomatoes (or 350g of pureed and strained tomatoes)

Freshly milled black pepper and salt

For the rice

~ 300g of fresh (live) mussels

~200g of clams

~150g of whole baby squid (chipirones) or squid or sepia

~150g of small tiger prawns (or any prawn, ideally not too small, you can find)

a squeeze of lemon juice

Fresh coriander (3 or 4 stems with leaves)


300g of rice (I used “calasparra”, use varieties such as arborio of

       carnaroli that absorb the tasty stock and thicken it at the same time. Do

       not use Bomba or varieties that do not absorb the taste in a liquid medium)


First, place your clams in a bowl and cover them with salted water so they release any sand inside them. They will need at least 30 minutes, the time it will take you to prepare the rest…

Start by preparing your stock. Just cover the washed monkfish bones with the water and slowly bring to a boil. As soon as it starts boiling reduce to a slow simmer and remove all the foam on top, and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes. Then, strain into another pan and set the bones aside if you will want to add them to your rice (they are delicious!!). If you use monkfish cheeks, they will be ready as soon as your fumet boils, they need no further cooking, so strain then. Do not clean up the strainer or the pot yet, as you will still use them.


Next, we prepare each of the different seafood. For the mussels, first remove any which are dead. To start, this means all those that are open and if you press them they do not close up. Clean up the shells with the back of a knife and remove the “beards” pulling them out. Place them in a small pan (the same one you used for the stock will do, so like I sais, no need to clean, just give it a quick water wash) add a squeeze of lemon juice and a little bit of coriander.


Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. No need to add water, as the mussels as they cook will give off a lot of water. Cook for about 5 minutes and check that all shells have opened, if not give them a bit more time. Then, those which you are not able to open, discard as well. Strain the resulting stock into the pan with monkfish stock and remove & discard the side of the shell which is not attached to the mussel muscle!


As you can see from the photo, these mussels are not particularly great, they are very small for the size of the shells. It is past their time! You can tell how each weighs so little for it’s size. In Spain we say, that seafood is best at the months with “R” (that is from September, “septiembre”, up to April, “Abril”, maximum), as most species have their reproductive cycle during march and august and they lose a lot of weight. I’d go further and say that the best time really runs from November to March.


Now we will open our clams in the same way, use the same pan to place them with a bit of water and cover and bring to a boil. These will be done much faster, so as soon as it boils, give the pan a shake and open it. If most are open, it’s ready, if not leave a few seconds more. Remove the closed ones and strain the stock into the stock pan and remove the shell sides not attached to the clam.

Time to clean up the squids…


Remove the outer skin and separate the insides attached to the head and legs from the body. Ideally turn the body, inside out to clean it better, and from the other side take the legs pulling from underneath the eyes (removing the two long ones, which are really reproductive organs) removing the peak in the center. Also, there’s another usable part, which we call the “teeth” which is attached to the rest of the innards. Here’s the squid cleaned up to show the usable parts.


You just need to slice the body, depending on how big it is in 3 or 4 pieces lengthwise, as they will shrink a lot! And time to get started! It is a bit of preparation, I know, I like to do it all myself, if you cannot be bothered, buy all ready to be used, a bit less than the equivalent of clean squid or sepia, frozen or cooked mussels and clams (but you will miss the tasty stock from cooking them). In that case, try to make a tasty stock!

In Valencia, to make their dry rices, as paella, the trick is to fry all you will put in in the oil, before making the sofrito. So, that’s what we’ll do here, as well. This way, you will leave behind all the flavour of grilled squid and prawns, plus they themselves will taste sooo much better than if just added without frying them first! So, in the same pan we will cook our rice (ideally a clay casserole for this dish, but with induction I cannot use it, so any other casserole will do) add a bit of olive oil and preheat well to fry over high heat the prawns first (as they have less water than the squid). Turn on both sides and remove onto a dish.

Add a bit more oil and place the squid over high heat or they will just cook in their juices but without browning (we would miss all those “Maillard Reactions” for the creation of tasty flavour molecules!). Also remove onto a dish.


Now, add enough extra olive oil to cover generously the bottom of the pan to begin the “sofrito”. Slice the onion in julienne and then chop it lengthwise into 3 and begin frying it slowly over medium heat. Cut up the peppers the same way in thin strips lengthwise and then into smaller pieces and add when the onion starts to soften. When they are all softer, add the finely chopped garlic and the stalks of the coriander you will use also finely chopped, and continue cooking for 5 minutes longer without letting the garlic brown.


Meanwhile prepare your tomato puree. Just remove the scar which attaches them to the plant and cut them up and place them in a jug to whiz them with a hand blender and then just strain that into the sofrito directly when ready.

Before you add the tomato, add off the heat the little bit of hot paprika and then strain in the tomato. Add a tsp of sugar if the tomato feels sour and a bit of salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste.

You want the tomato to cook off until all it’s juices are evaporated and it starts separating from the oil. Then, it will be almost caramelised with a sweet taste.


Time to finish off our rice. You could prepare everything up to this stage and then start preparing your rice when you are ready.

Bring to a boil your stock and remove any foam that rises to the surface again (as we added that from the mussels and clams, probably more foam will form). We will be adding 300g of rice for this recipe, so will a tea or coffee cup (or whetever you find convenient) measure how many of those make 300g, as it’s more convenient to measure the stock by volume. You will be using 4X the amount of rice of stock, so if 300g is 2 mugs of rice, add 8 into your “sofrito”.

Bring all that to a boil, season and add your rice. Keep the heat at medium so it simmers instead of boiling vigorously. Add your fish bones if using, but still reserve the meat and rest of seafood to add later. Set your timer to about 15 minutes and then add your fish, prawns and squid, adding in all the lovely juices released!!! Two minutes later add the clams and mussels. Give it a stir from time to time to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. It will take about 20 minutes in total. Try your rice, it should be almost completely cooked, with a bit of a bite still…it will continue to cook with the residual heat, so turn it off!!!!Otherwise if you continue until it is just ready, it will be a mush in no time!

Also, if you see it is dry, add more stock. In Portugal they make this rice “caldoso”, not like a risotto, but with more stock. I like it creamy, with stock but thickened by the rice, so it has texture. It’s up to you if you like it thicker, that is, creamier, or with more stock.

So, add your chopped coriander to finish and optionally you can add a bit of lemon juice if you like (sometimes I do, others I don’t) and adjust seasonings. Give it two minutes and it should be ready to serve!!!!IMG_0078bis 

I like to serve it on traditional clay pots, and since the rest will continue to cook and absorb liquid, if you are not going to eat it. Cool the pan over the sink filled with iced water to stop the cooking. We are two, so when I make this much, it’s best to do this. Obviously if you are going to serve it all, just take it to the table whole!


Can you see how the stock is not “liquid” but has a texture?


Serve with a cold slightly sparkling vinho verde and enjoy!!

continue for recipe...