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Cooking courses and food tours in SW France

Paella may well be Spain’s national dish, but it most certainly isn’t the only rice dish loved by the Spanish. My latest book Paella and other Spanish rice dishes published by Ryland Peters & Small explores just that and includes more than 30 delicious rice dishes. From the obvious paella to rice soups, creamy rice dishes (which resemble Italian risotto) to baked rice dishes which includes a couple of rice desserts. Beautifully photographed by Ian Wallace this is a great little book packed with recipes for all occasions.

Photography by Ian Wallace

Chicken and seafood paella – photography by Ian Wallace

What I love about writing recipes for a new project is what you get to learn on the journey. It isn’t just new recipes, flavours and dishes but all the history of food and culture. I knew a little about Spanish rice, but I sound found out that there is so much more. A flying trip to Valencia, one of Spain’s largest rice producing regions, included a trip to the Rice Museum (Museo de Arroz) to learn how rice used to be processed as well as a visit to the rice fields on the outskirts of the city along the shores of Lake Albufera to see rice growing today. Of course the trip also included eating as many different types of rice dishes I could manage over 3 days – not too much of hardship really!

If you like what you see below and would like to purchase the book , here’s the link http://www.rylandpeters.com/paella

Chicken and seafood paella (paella con pollo y marisco) shown above

Serves 4

This is the paella that most people know as Spanish paella, and it can be found in restaurants all over Spain, not always (in fact rarely) as the original Alicante version was intended. This adaptation is as close as I can get in a domestic kitchen. If you cannot find mussels or langoustine, use any other fresh seafood you can buy.

500 g/18 oz. mussels, cleaned

100 ml/1⁄3 cup dry white wine

8 large prawns/jumbo shrimp

8 langoustines (optional)

1⁄4 teaspoon saffron strands

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 skinless chicken thigh fillets, quartered

350 g/3⁄4 lb. prepared squid rings

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 red/bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 tomatoes, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

350 g/scant 2 cups bomba, Calasparra or arborio rice

200 g/11⁄ 3 cups fresh or frozen peas

salt and freshly ground black pepper

freshly chopped parsley, to garnish

Discard any mussels that do not close when tapped on the work surface. Place the mussels, still wet from cleaning, in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the wine and cook the mussels, covered, for 4–5 minutes, until the shells have opened (discard any that remain closed). Strain and reserve the liquid. Set the mussels aside.

Remove the heads from the prawns/shrimp and langoustines and add the heads to the mussel liquid along with 1.25 litres/5 cups cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming the surface to remove any scum, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine sieve/strainer into a saucepan (you should have about 1 litre/generous 4 cups), stir in the saffron strands and keep warm.

Heat half the oil in a 35-cm/14-in. paella pan (or shallow flameproof casserole) and fry the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes, until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat with the prawns/shrimp, then the langoustines, if using, and finally the squid rings, frying for 2–3 minutes, until golden, removing each with a slotted spoon.

Reduce the heat, add the remaining oil to the pan and gently fry the garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the pepper, tomatoes and paprika, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is sticky. Stir in the rice and return the chicken to the pan. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Stir in the prawns/shrimp, langoustines, mussels, squid and peas, and cook for a further 10 minutes, until the rice and seafood are cooked. Season to taste, then leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving, sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Photography by Ian Wallace

Photography by Ian Wallace

Rice with squid in ink (arroz negro)

Serves 2

Black, unctuous and quite unlike any other rice dish, the flavour of this crazy-looking rice is truly fabulous. You can use either squid or cuttlefish for this recipe, and ask your fishmonger for the small packets of prepared squid ink. You will need 2 small packs or 2 teaspoons. Double the quantities, as required, for more people.

350 g/3⁄4 lb. prepared small squid or cuttlefish (you can use pre-cleaned squid)

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 small red/bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 large tomato, seeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1⁄4 teaspoon saffron strands, ground

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley

2 teaspoons squid ink

500 ml/generous 2 cups hot fish or chicken stock *

150 g/generous 3⁄4 cup bomba, Calasparra or arborio rice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the prepared squid. Heat the oil in a 25-cm/10-in. frying pan/skillet or shallow flameproof casserole, and quickly stir-fry the squid for 2–3 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Add the garlic and red/bell pepper to the pan with a little salt, and fry gently for 10 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato, paprika, saffron and parsley, and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the mixture is quite dry.

Place the squid ink in a bowl and stir in a little of the hot stock. Add the rice to the casserole, stir well and then add the squid pieces, inky stock and the rest of the stock.

Stir once and then bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the rice is al dente and the stock is creamy and quite sticky. Season to taste, and serve immediately with some crusty bread.

Tip: to make fish stock, place fish trimmings and prawn/shrimp shells, etc., into a pan with some chopped celery, leek, parsley, thyme and a little salt and pepper. Add 1.5 litres/generous 6 cups cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain.

Baked rice pudding copy

Photography by Ian Wallace

Baked saffron rice pudding (arroz con leche y azafrán al horno)

Serves 4

There is something truly comforting about eating baked rice pudding. Perhaps it’s the fond memories of childhood puds, or the soft, creamy texture of the dish. This version offers an intriguing hint of saffron. If you want, you can add some dried raisins or currants before baking and serve topped with a drizzle of cream and whatever fresh fruits are in season.

125 g/scant 3⁄4 cup bomba, Calasparra or arborio rice

1 litre/generous 4 cups fullfat/ whole milk

75 g/6 tablespoons caster/ granulated sugar

1 vanilla pod/bean, split

a pinch of saffron strands

25 g/2 tablespoons butter, diced

cream and seasonal fruits, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) Gas 2 and grease a 1.5-litre/6-cup baking dish.

Wash the rice in a sieve/strainer, shake well and place in the prepared dish. Place the milk, sugar, vanilla pod/bean and saffron strands in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.

Discard the vanilla pod/bean, scraping the seeds into the milk, then pour the milk over the rice. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.Stir well, carefully dot the top with butter and bake for a further 1 hour, until the top of the pudding is golden brown. Lift a little of the skin with the point of a knife; the sauce should be thick and creamy. Cook for longer, if required. Rest for 10 minutes before serving with some cream and fresh fruits, if wished.

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