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Posts tagged ‘Paella’

Catalan shellfish orzo paella

Nothing continues the memories of a wonderful holiday better than bringing the food of that holiday destination home. There is nothing quite like the process of cooking, and eating international food to tease each of the senses with memories of the good times. So one of the first things I did after my return from my recent weekend in Barcelona was to recreate that exquisite noodle paella which I had so enjoyed on the quayside of the Port Vell over our last lunch. Using durum wheat pasta noodles rather than the traditional rice resulted in a delicious textural twist on the normal paella, while cooking without moving any of the ingredients so as to caramelise the fish stock into a golden crunch at the edges made this paella something to die for.

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I found a similar recipe in a new cook book I have recently picked up, My Barcelona Kitchen by Sophie Ruggles. Unfortunately my supermarkets were less in tune with the noodle paella approach, and finding something similar to the recommended short durum wheat noodles required by the recipe turned out to be the first hurdle to cross. So thinking laterally, I decided to go for a durum wheat orzo instead – for these little beads of pasta very nearly replicated the short length and texture of the noodles we had hungrily devoured in Barcelona. As for the rest, buying myself a good heap of different shell fish, from tiger prawns to langoustines, as well as plenty of squid, mussels and some mixed fish, meant that I was plying my paella with as much fish as it deserved, and in probably more generous portions than had ever been lavished upon us in a restaurant.

First up was to make the fish stock, which is an important element to the dish since it is this which really gives the paella its distinctive flavour and ensures that that caramelisation is as rich and delicious as it deserves to me. However, I admit to cheating just a little bit, as I started off with 1 litre of fresh supermarket-bought fish stock to use as my base, before further enrichening this with a chopped and wilted white onion, 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 diced tomato, half a teaspoon of smoked (sweet) pimenton, a pinch of saffron threads, a whole load of prawn shells, heads – you name it. This was left to simmer away for a good 45 minutes or so to ensure full development of the flavours before being sieved to remove all of the chunky bits, leaving behind a flavoursome stock.

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Then came the paella itself. I started off by coating the base of what should have been a paella pan, but in my case had to be a wok (I am yet to own a paella pan, but I will change this) and in that oil cooking 6 unpeeled garlic cloves for 2-3 minutes. I then added the uncooked orzo and coated in the oil before cooking, tossing frequently, for around 5 minutes until golden brown. I then removed the orzo and garlic and set aside, before then cooking the prawns and langoustines and again setting aside.

Finally, bringing everything together, I cooked my calamari for a few minutes (until the liquid had disappeared), threw in some pieces of mixed fish, my orzo, mussels and all of that delicious stock, and scattered the rest of the seafood including all of the prawns on top. I then cooked untouced over a medium heat for around 10 minutes to gently caramelise. I cheated on this aspect too, placing the whole paella under the grill for a few minutes at the end to further enhance the caramelised area – I just can’t get enough of that caramel!

And there we have it – my orzo paella, which can also be made with noodles, and just calls to be varied with all the different kinds of fish and shellfish that you desire. Buen provecho!

Barcelona | Day 2: It’s not all about Gaudi

Now don’t get me wrong. Gaudi was a genius. Many of the world’s greatest architects who have come along since the architect’s premature death under the wheels of a Barcelona tram would declare it so. He was utterly ingenious and completely beyond his time. The Sagrada Familia looks utterly futuristic, and yet he designed it at the end of the 1800s. But Barcelona, like so many cities who know they are onto a good thing, is not shy about exploiting Gaudi’s talent to the full. So asides from the fanfares which go up within a mile radius of the various Gaudi masterpieces which pop up across the city, you also have souvenirs crammed full of Gaudi-related paraphernalia, all covered in various semblances of mosaic-looking broken tiled patterns, whether it be across cuddly lizards, multi-coloured mugs, candle holders or umbrellas. The resulting popularity of this genius makes life for the spontaneous tourist something of a nightmare as we were about to find out.

On Saturday, our visit to the Sagrada Familia was in part impeded by the fact that all tickets to the towers, which it had been my primary intention to visit, were already sold out for the day. This was several hours before closing. Then on Sunday, when we headed along to the recently renovated Palau Guell off Las Ramblas, we were told similarly that the tickets for the day were sold out – and this too was several hours before closing. Finally on Monday, a further attempt to visit said Guell palace was similarly in vein: they were closed. Thwarted by what appears to be the need for months of pre-planning (I’m assuming that online ticket sales are the cause of tickets selling out so early), we had to stop and restock. Was the success of this holiday really all that dependant on seeing all of these various Gaudi houses? To be crammed inside with the rest of the city’s tourist hoards? Of course it wasn’t: as one door closed on our plans, Barcelona opened various others. For as was to transpire, sometimes the best experiences of a tourist come from the spontaneous and the unplanned. And in Barcelona, it’s really not difficult to find entertainment and beauty beyond the broken tiles of Gaudi’s oeuvre.

Mare Magnum and the port

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So what did we do once Gaudi’s doors had been closed in our face? Well as the weather was glorious, location one of the day just had to be Barcelona’s surprisingly clean sandy beach, and its expansive Mediterranean Port. Cleaned up for the 1992 Olympics, and subsequently developed further to include the hyper-modern Mare Magnum shopping and entertainment centre, which acts as a seaward extension to the bustling Las Ramblas, and the W hotel which sits like a sailing boat out on the furthest stretch of the marina, Barcelona’s port and beach front are some of the most pleasurable areas of the city to visit, whether it be for a stroll, a sunbathe or a seafood lunch under the sun – and happily we were able to indulge in all three.

The sunbathing was more of a clothes-on Winter version, but unbeknownst to us, we still managed to gain an awful lot of colour on our faces from a morning happily ambling close to the sea, along the marina’s edge, and eating the most delicious seafood paella on a restaurant installed in the middle of the beach. And what a way to enjoy a winter’s day. I almost felt like pinching myself, but instead indulged happily in a glass or two of crispy cold rueda wine – the perfect accompaniment to a lunch straight out of the pages of summer.

Barcelona’s sandy beach…

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and seafood paella for lunch


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