Fideuà is a seafood pasta dish which originally comes from Gandia in Valencia. According to legend, Fideuà was created by Gabriel Rodriguez Pastor, a cook on a fishing boat and his assistant Joan Batiste Pascual (known as Zabalo), in 1915. Apparently they often cooked paella for the sailors onboard ship, but the captain loved rice and was greedy – he always ate the lion’s share. In an attempt to share the food out equally, the cooks swapped the rice for pasta (fideos), in the hope that the captain would like the noodles less. Unfortunately, fideuà proved to be a big hit with the skipper – bad news for the crew, but a new dish was born. Like paella, fideuà has become an incredibly popular lunchtime dish on the coast of Valencia and Cataluña (no doubt elsewhere in Spain too), often as a starter on a menú del dia.
I previously posted my version of the most common type of fideuà dish found in Spain, but there’s also a less well known black version made with squid or cuttlefish ink. This thickens the sauce and adds a hint of the sea. The ink can be extracted from squid or cuttlefish at home, but it can also be found in sachets and jars at good fishmongers and some supermarkets.
Fideos are short pieces of pasta with the thickness of vermicelli or angel hair. The above are the kind of noddles most often found in restaurant fideuà. You can crunch up vermicelli to make 1 inch (2.5cm) fideos and in America, fideos are available in Mexican shops – used in making soup. There are several types of fideuà on sale in Spanish supermarkets, including Fideuá which are like a tiny macaroni with a hollow centre to collect the sauce. Fideuà is the Catalan spelling – in Spanish the accent points the other way (fideuá).
1/2 kg raw mussels
1 small onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 teaspoons fresh parsley (chopped)
a glass of dry white wine
a pinch ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
This is a very quick and easy way of cooking mussels. Rinse the molluscs under a cold tap, just before cooking – remove their beards and scrape off anything on the outside of the shell. Don’t soak them in water beforehand, it kills them! Tap the mussels and discard any that refuse to close. Using a large saucepan with lid, fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Sprinkle on the chopped parsley and a little black pepper before pouring on a glass of dry white wine. Bring to a simmer, add the mussels, put the lid on, agitate and turn the heat down.
The mussels will steam and open when done (from 2 – 5 minutes). Allow the mussels to cool and remove them from their shells. Reserve the cooking liquid and add it to the fish stock.
Do cook your own fish stock if you have access to heads and bones, otherwise a good fishmonger will normally sell it in jars.
3 fish heads and bones
1 onion (roughly chopped)
6 cloves garlic
2 carrots (quartered)
2 sticks celery (quartered)
a large tomato (quartered)
2 bay leaves
a teaspoon of fennel seeds
a few sprigs thyme
a handful of fresh parsley
a level teaspoon black peppercorns
sea salt (to taste)
a glass of white wine
2 pints water
extra virgin olive oil
Brown the fish, pour on the wine, add the vegetables, herbs and water. Bring to a simmer skim off any foam and cook gently for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and strain.
Fideuà recipe (serves 4):
2 pints fish stock
3 medium squid (sliced into rings)
5 large prawns (de-veined)
1/2 kg cooked mussels
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
a green pepper (chopped)
3 tomatoes (grated)
a glass of dry white wine
30g squid ink (about 6 sachets)
a dessertspoon fresh parsley (chopped) plus a teaspoon for decoration
extra virgin olive oil
allioli to serve
Fideuà is a fairly simple and straightforward dish to prepare, but requires constant attention, therefore I recommend getting everything ready in advance.
First, pour plenty of olive oil into a hot pan and add the fideuà. Stir vigorously for 4 or 5 minutes until the pasta has browned all over. It tends to crackle a bit when golden. Remove to plate.
Fideuà is cooked in a paella pan, called a paella. This is a wide but shallow cast iron frying pan with handles on either side, ideal for cooking outdoors over a wood fire which provides a smokey flavour. Ideally, like paella, fideuà should be cooked outside, using a wood fire, though many Spanish people have special gas hobs with an inner and outer ring of flames. The inner ring is lit to cook the fish and vegetables and the outer ring is lit to reduce the stock. However, the largest gas ring, on a normal hob will suffice.
Turn the gas ring to the middle setting and cook the prawns in a little olive oil until they go pink. Remove and set aside for later.
Cook the onions in the middle of the pan – keep them moving until they take some colour and add more oil if the pan is dry.
Move the onion outwards and add the green pepper to the centre.
When the pepper has had a few minutes, move the vegetables to the outside of the pan (which is cooler), while you fry the squid in the middle – until it takes a slight pink colour (4 or 5 minutes).
Again, mix and move everything outwards – grate in 3 medium tomatoes (ideally soft ones) – cut in half, grate the wet side and discard the skin.
Cook the tomato for a minute or two before sprinkling on the garlic and parsley.
After 3 or 4 minutes, return the fideuà to the pan and mix well with the other ingredients.
Combine with the precooked mussels.
Have the fish stock hot and ready before pouring into the paella, along with the dry white wine – up to the nails (rivets on the handles).
Mix in the cuttlefish ink, so that the fideuà looks like an oil tanker disaster. Have a quick taste to check the seasoning, then do not stir again!
On an open fire or Spanish paella hob, the stock reduction and absorption takes about 5 minutes. With a domestic hob it takes 8 – 10 minutes. When you can see that the liquid has reduced, but there’s still a little below the noodles, reduce the heat to half way. Cook for a further 5 minutes. When it looks like the stock has been absorbed, turn off the gas. Put the wrong end of a spoon into the pan to check if you have any doubts. If you get the faintest whiff of burning it’s definitely done – do not cook further!
Place the cooked prawns on top of the fideuà.
Cover the paella pan with newspaper to allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes. Newspaper absorbs humidity, whereas foil keeps it in and it will drip back down into the food. Don’t leave it longer, or it will get too dry.
While waiting, mix up some allioli, to serve on the side.
Fideuà is a lunchtime dish and should be served at the table with a wooden spoon. Ideally it should stick slightly to the bottom of the pan to form a socarrat. The squid was melt in the mouth tender and had a very pleasant and lasting taste of the sea with a hint of fennel. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Calamar, Vino Blanco, Rueda Verdejo with the fideuà.
Hoped you would post this week – lovely ! A very inviting dish for me but a total newbie which may take some organization !! Love all the seafood as you may remember and quite often use squid sachets . . . too complicated ‘the other way’ ! The pasta I do not know but can no doubt find . . . then it is only a matter of trial and error . . . and then hopefully a case of ‘showing-off’ to those at the table ! My fishmonger will shake his head when I ask for half a dozen sachets of the ink – normally it is a case of one 🙂 !!! . . . best . . .
Thanks Eha – as long as you have everything ready, the cooking process is simple and the same goes for paella. You should be able to find an Italian pasta of the correct size – I got mine in a Turkish shop nearby. Otherwise, break up some vermicelli. 6 sachets sounds like a lot of ink, but I’ve eaten black rice on more than one occasion, which has been cooked with double the amount – it looks like an oil slick but tastes fantastic! I got a couple of jars half price recently, containing 90g – the equivalent of about 22 sachets. I could happily stick half a jar into a fideuà!
Think I saw jars being advertised at my favourite on-line fine foods . . . less expensive methinks . . . I obviously have a lot to learn . . . fun homework – thanks !! *smile* Can do a reasonable paella without a recipe . . .
It’s pretty much the same as making paella!
I had it just once (a plain one, no ink) and It was delicious. will check your other versions. on mussels: in my experience they are never as clean as the growers say and I always soak them in salted water. (but much cleaner than in the past) ciao, stefano
Thanks Stefano – it’s one of my favourite Spanish lunches!
Your comment about ” fideuà looks like an oil tanker disaster” gave me a real laugh. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked anything with that description before..😀
Ha ha – thanks Karen! The best arroz negra I ever had (at la Mar Salada) looked like it was black tar on the beach, with white shrimps on top. It looked completely wrong, but tasted amazing!
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