Valencian Seafood Noodles
In the Valencia region of Spain which is home to the paella, you’re just as likely to come across fideua on the menu as you are the more famous paella valenciana. This dish is similar to paella but comprises noodles together with vegetables and seafood rather than rice. The focus of the dish is to create a strong flavour rather than packing the dish with too many ingredients. It is often served warm rather than hot once all the flavours have blended. The measures given are approximate so don’t get too worried about following the recipe exactly.
- About 700g of fish heads for making stock
- 250g of unpeeled raw prawns
- About 12 large mussels
- About 12 large clams in their shell (cockles can be used instead)
- 150g of squid rings
- About 12 cooked king prawns
- Sea salt
- About 120ml olive oil
- Half a teaspoon of saffron (or orange colouring if unavailable)
- 4 large, ripe tomatoes
- About 225g of firm-fleshed fish fillets (eg. mullet, grouper) cut into cubes
- 1 large red sweet pepper, seeded and cut into cubes
- 225g fideos (or some other type of thin macaroni)
- 4 cloves of chopped garlic
- Chopped parsley
In a large pot over a high heat, bring about 1¼ litres of water to the boil. Now peel the prawns and add the heads and shells to this boiling water. This will eventually create a delicious stock which is the key to this dish. Put the peeled prawns to one side for the moment.
Now add the fish heads to the pot to add further flavour to the stock and return the pot to the boil. You can skim off any foam that builds up at this stage and reduce the heat so that the liquid is just simmering gently for about ½ hour. Now strain the liquid through a colander to collect the prawn and fish heads then return the strained liquid to the large stockpot.
Whilst the stock is simmering it’s a good time to prepare the shellfish. Remove the beards from the mussels and give them a good scrub along with the clams (or cockles). Now add all the shellfish to a separate pan in about 2½cm of hot water. Bring to the boil and add the lid, reduce the heat to medium and wait for all the shells to open. Throw away any shells that stay closed. Set aside the cooked shellfish. Now strain the water from this pan and add it to the main stockpot to add further flavour to our stock.
The use of tomatoes in this recipe is open to debate and generates some great arguments in the fish shops of Valencia. I’ve included them here but feel free to go ahead without them if you prefer. Begin by cutting the tomatoes in half then grate them from the middle on the large holes of a cheese grater into a bowl. Throw away the skins then set aside for later.
Grind a teaspoon of sea salt with the saffron until you’ve got a yellow powder. We use a coffee grinder for this though traditionally a mortar and pestle would be used. Again set this aside for later.
Now get out your paella pan or a large frying pan with a heavy base (the wider the better). Heat the olive oil over a medium heat and we can start cooking the various fishy ingedients. First of all add the peeled prawns and the squid rings cooking gently and turning for about a minute. Then place them in a separate bowl. Now do the same with the cubes of fish which normally take a couple of minutes and transfer them to the same bowl as the prawns. Finally, fry the red pepper in the remaining oil and once it is cooked add it to the same bowl as the cooked prawns and fish.
The next stage is to add the fideos (or similar) to the paella pan and fry them lightly with the garlic and parsley until they are covered in olive oil (takes about 30 secs). Now add the tomato that you prepared earlier and fry for another 30 secs. Then pour in a litre of the fish stock that you’ve been preparing together with the fish, prawns, squid and red pepper and saffron that you’ve set aside. Stir all these ingredients together and reduce the heat so that the dish is just simmering gently.
Just leave the dish simmering without stirring so that the fideos (or similar) can slowly absorb all the tasty stock. After about 10 mins you should place all the shellfish artistically on top of the liquid along with the king prawns and allow them all to be heated by the remaining stock. Continue this gentle cooking for about another 10 mins.
Finally, turn off the heat and cover the pan with something (for outdoor cooking I use a newspaper). Leave it for about another 10 minutes so that all the delicious flavours can combine and allow the fideos (or similar) to absorb all the remaining juices. Serve the dish warm rather than piping hot.