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Fideua, the ‘accidental’ alternative to the ubiquitous paella….

Everyone who has visited Spain will have tried ‘paella’, the blend of rice (and whatever is available/in season), served in every tourist restaurant around the country. Me, I live in Valencia, and, while I’m not a great fan of rice, I do appreciate that a true paella is a very different beast to the mass-produced, even microwaved, dishes served to many unfortunates who think they have tried authentic Spanish cooking.fid2

Anyway, enough about paella. I live in the town of Gandia, south of Valencia, the ‘home’ of Spanish rice dishes. Gandia, with its fantastic beach, is the main tourist destination for the residents of Madrid and is jokingly known as ‘Madrid beach’. However, fid6Gandia is also famous, on a world level, as the spiritual temple´of fideua, a true taste of Spain.

Let the story begin, there are several versions but I like this one best.

fid1Being lovers of rice, as are all Valencianos, the fishermen from Gandia would take their paella to sea (the paella is also the name of the wide, shallow dish used to cook the paella). Using some of their catch of the day, they would make a daily seafood paella at sea. Story has it that three brothers Paco, Jesus and Pepe, or it could have been just as easily, Pablo, Diego and Antonio, had a problem; they liked to demolish a few garrafas of wine every night before setting out to sea. Easily enough, someone forgot to bring the rice one day!

”Hijo de puta! que hacemos ahora….?” Delving deep into the boat´s cupboards, Gonzalez finds a packet of noodles. ”Vamos a probar!” And, so a legend was born. ‘Such is the stuff that dreams are made on….’fid4

Today, top chefs, from as far away as Japan, flock annually to Gandia to partake in an annual fideua cooking competition.

Fideua is pretty easy to prepare. If you haven’t got a paella, a wide frying pan will suffice. Give it a try:

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Ingredients:

  • 1 kg. fish
  • 6 cups of good fish stock
  • quarter kg. Shrimps or prawns
  • quarter kg. clams
  • 10 mussels
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • red pepper
  • quarter kilo cuttlefish
  • 1/2 large red pepper
  • ½ kg. thick Vermicelli style pasta
  • saffron
  • a little olive oil
  • salt

Heat the stock and keep for use later. Clean the seafood and fish and cut into 5cm cubes. Clean the cuttlefish and cut into small ‘bite-size’ portions. Seed and slice the red pepper into thin strips. Skin and chop the tomato. Place the paella or pan on a medium heat and, when the oil is hot, sautée the onion, shrimp and cuttlefish. When cooked, remove from the pan and set aside, leaving the oil in the pan. Add the tomato and red pepper and sautée for two minutes. Add the fish stock and saffron, stir and bring to the boil. When boiling, add the pasta, cuttlefish and fish and stir. Arrange and decorate the clams, mussels and shrimp in the pan above the pasta. Cook for about 15 minutes until the pasta is still slightly firm. Remove the fideua from the heat and cover with foil to “rest” for 5 minutes. Serve with lemon slices.fid5

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