Sopa de Fideos, or often just Fideos, is a Spanish pasta soup, originally cooked with a beef broth and later with chicken, as Sopa de ave con fideos. Fideos were so popular, that it’s the Spanish who took pasta to the New World and not the Italians! Mexican Sopa de Fideo is a basic food staple – I hadn’t realised that fideos were popular in Mexico until I saw a film about a Mexican barbecue chef, quite recently. As I mentioned above, chicken fideos are probably the most common, often made with stock and no meat – on a menú del día in Spain they would say these are vegetarian! However, sopa de fideos made with vegetables and vegetable stock is growing increasingly popular. To add something a little diffent to my sopa de fideos, I used a Faisán (pheasant) and made the stock from scratch.
Pasta is a traditional Spanish food, though most people associate it more with Italy and China. The Chinese were probably the first civilisation to make noodles with rice, perhaps as far back as 200 BC. In Rome, Lagana was first mentioned by Horace, writing in 1st Century AD – these were sheets of fried dough. A recipe for lagana was recorded by the Greek Athenaeus of Naucratis in 2nd Century AD – sheets of dough made with wheat flour and lettuce juice, which were spiced and fried. The recipe is attributed to Chrysippus of Tyana from 1st Century. By the 5th Century recipes for lagana refer to layers of dough and a meat stuffing, which is probably the origin of lasagne.
Itrium is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud, as a boiled dough popular in Palestine from the 3rd Century AD onwards. This is also documented by Galen a Greek philosopher, physician and surgeon in the 2nd Century AD, as itrion. Pasta in this form was probably eaten in the Levant as far back as 500 BC.
People of the Maghreb were eating couscous by the 11th and 13th Centuries. Couscous is made of little sun dried drops of durum wheat semolina, rehydrated and cooked in a steamer, over a stew. Some food historians believe that the origin of couscous making, may date back to several millennia earlier.
Marco Polo definitely did not bring pasta to Italy from China in 1295! This is a myth started by the US National Macaroni Manufacturers’ Association, in 1929, to promote pasta in America.
Pasta in the form of lagana, may have arrived in Spain with the Romans and it was most definitely popular after the Moorish conquest. By the 13th Century there were at least 4 types of pasta in Spain: small spindles fidawus, balls al-muhammis, larger balls zabzin and short macaroni aletría. Note the Arabic names – fidawus is almost certainly the origin of fideos (above) also used for making fideuà (Catalan spelling, the Spanish spelling has the accent going the other way – fideuá).
I bought the above fideuá from a supermarket in Barcelona – there were several types, made by the same local manufacturer – being in a hurry, I grabbed these. This is the largest version, with a hole in the middle, to maximise absorption of stock. It is not the kind most often used for sopa de fideos, the most common has the thickness of Vermicelli or Angel Hair pasta – Fideos No 0. You can crunch up vermicelli to make 1 inch (2.5cm) fideos and in America, fideos are available in Mexican shops. I’ve seen some modern recipes where they don’t bother with short pasta and just use Angel Hair straight from the packet.
1 large onion (cut in half)
6 cloves garlic (peeled)
1 large carrot (cut into 3)
2 sticks celery (cut in half)
1 large leek top
a few sprigs rosemary, sage and thyme
2 bay leaves
2 pints water
olive oil to brown the pheasant
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Take the pheasant out of the fridge an hour or so before coking and allow to come to room temperature.
Season the bird with salt and pepper, then brown all over in hot olive oil.
Add the herbs, stock vegetables and water to the casserole, bring to a simmer, skim off any scum on the surface of the liquid, then remove to a pre heated oven at 150ºC for 60 minutes. Turn the pheasant over half way through cooking.
Take the pheasant out of the stock and allow to cool, remove the solid ingredients and put the liquid stock through a sieve. Remove the meat from the bones and chop into bite sized pieces.
Receta de Sopa de Fideos (serves 4):
poached pheasant meat (diced, bones and skin removed)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
2 tomatoes (grated)
1 large carrot (chopped)
2 sticks celery (chopped)
1 leek (sliced)
1 small red pepper (chopped)
1 small green pepper (chopped)
200g fideos (or broken Angel Hair pasta)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera dulce
a large squirt anchovy paste
a glass dry white wine
a splash or two of sherry vinegar
2 pints pheasant sock
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil
a handful parsley (chopped) to serve
Sofreír (poach) the onion in olive oil until it goes soft.
Stir in the garlic and grate on the tomatoes (cut in half, grate the wet side and discard the remaining skin). Allow to cook gently for 5 – 10 minutes.
Mix in all the other chopped vegetables.
Pour on the stock, wine and sherry vinegar, then squirt in the anchovy paste.
Sprinkle on the Pimentón de la Vera
and add the bay leaves. Allow the alcohol to evaporate for 5 minutes. Check the seasoning and simmer with the lid on for about an hour.
Return the meat to the pot and continue simmering for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, toast the fideos in hot olive oil until they have become golden. The hob temperature should be quite hot and you need to stir constantly or they will burn.
Add the fideos to the soup.
Cook until the fideos become al dente 5 – 10 minutes. They will puff up and absorb some of the stock, thickening the soup. Add more sock or water if necessary.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread. If you are feeling fancy, you can dress the soup up with a little chopped egg and jamón serrano or grate on vintage Manchego cheese, which is similar (but different) to Parmesan.