I met Jane six months after I moved to England. At the time, I didn't realise how lucky I was to meet her - it's hard enough to find a really good friend in a foreign country, but imagine meeting a true kindred spirit.
In a few hours, with suitcases in hand and no particular plans, she and I will be flying to my home-town, Barcelona. After all, most of the best moments are unplanned, right?
I want to show her my city from another angle, escaping the beaten track of the Sagrada Familia and the human statues in Las Ramblas. I would like her to discover the non-touristy Barcelona, its narrow hidden streets where you breathe the salty smell of the sea; its magical spots where asking for a wish is mandatory although few people know it; and of course, its gastronomy.
You'll agree with me that when visiting any city, getting to know its cuisine is a must. But being with a native friend who can show you the best restaurants - that is a gift. And when I say 'best', I mean those places where you eat authentic local food.
I noticed that Jane knew something about Spanish cuisine when she asked me if we would have tapas and tortilla de patatas. Definitely! -I said. And paella? She asked, curious.
I smiled mischievously and told her: Well... I had thought of having a nice fideuà in the marina instead.
As I supposed, Jane hadn't heard of fideuà before.
Far less famous around the world than Paella, but very similar, fideuà is, as I like to describe it to those who ask me, the noodles paella. The main ingredients, apart from noodles, are fish (monkfish, cuttlefish, etc.) and seafood such as prawns, Norway lobster, squid and clams. An authentic fish feast!
The broth, also, is coloured and flavoured by a bit of saffron.
Fideuà originated in Gandia, a coastal town in the Valencia region, it came to life by chance and also thanks to a bit of audacity! The story goes that a ship's cook, making paella back in 1920, didn't have enough rice to feed all the crew, so instead, he added noodles cut in half.
Nowadays, the short lengths of noodles used for fideuà are called fideus. They are cooked slowly in a paella pan (paellera), using various cooking methods. First of all, the noodles are slightly browned in olive oil and then simmered in a rich fish and shell-fish broth. Adding the fish stock bit by bit and not stirring too much are key, so that the fideus can slowly absorb the tasty broth. When the fideus are cooked through, they are baked in the oven for a few minutes to achieve a slightly crunchy top layer.
Although fideuà can be eaten at any time of year, it always makes me think of summer: sun, lunch after being at the beach, packed tables outside restaurants, the din of holidaymakers, tanned skin still peppered with sand, drinking sangria, and so many other memories.
Fideuà was one of my favourite main courses and one of the ones I most enjoyed cooking for my family and friends. When I switched to a gluten-free diet, however, fideuà became another dish on the black-list.
The idea of cooking a gluten-free version of fideuà didn't come to me until I discovered sweet potato noodles, just a few months ago. But an idea was all it was, and one I decided not to put into practice, for fear of disappointment: I was afraid of those amazing flavours being simply nostalgia and so many memories.
But I did it. After about four years, I cooked fideuà.
Like when you get to eat your favourite childhood candy, my fideuà gave me a funny flashback of my dad telling me to add more garlic to the alioli while I whisked, and immediately after, the sauce separating and my mum laughing.
gluten free noodles paella (fideua)
Far less famous around the world than Paella, but very similar, fideuà is the noodles paella. This is a gluten free version, made from sweet potato noodles and seafood. An authentic fish feast!
For the fideuà:
160grams raw prawns, unpeeled (keep shells for broth)
2tablespoons oil olive extra virgin
1/2red pepper, chopped
1/2green pepper, chopped
2cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1tablespoon tomato puree
150grams sweet potato noodles, cut in about 2 inchs length (3 handful of fideus)
10cooked prawns to decorate
For the garlic sauce (Alioli)
1/2clove garlic, chopped
1/2cup olive oil
- Turn the grill on.
In a large saucepan, bring the water to the boil. Put in the mussels, cook covered with a lid for 2-3 minutes until shells open. Remove mussels from the saucepan, keeping the water for the broth. Cool mussels under cold water and set aside.
Peel the prawns, and set aside. Then put the shells in to the saucepan with the water from cooking the mussels. Cook the broth on medium heat for 10 minutes, removing any scum that comes to the surface. Strain the broth, transfer to another saucepan or bowl and add the saffron, stirring to make sure the saffron disolves well into the broth.
Then, heat the olive oil in the paellera over a medium heat, add in peppers, garlic, tomato puree and salt and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add in the fideus and stir quickly for 30 seconds, making sure they don’t burn, pour in the fish broth until it covers the fideus and then add the prawns. Turn heat to low and let simmer without stirring. When fideus have absorbed the broth, add another cup or so. (I needed 2 cups and half of broth)
After 5 minutes, top with the mussels and the cooked prawns and simmer for 7 minutes more. Taste the noodles all the time as sweet potato noodles get overcooked very quickly.
Then, turn the heat off and place the paellera in the oven. Grill for 5 minutes or until noodles are slightly crunchy. The time really depends on how crunchy you prefer fideus.
Meanwhile, make the alioli sauce.
Place the garlic, oil, egg and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Put the blade attachment down, touching the bowl and process until evenly combined, about 10 seconds. Then, continue processing, while, slowly, lifting the attachment up and down, until completly combined, about 2 minutes.
Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and transfer the alioli sauce to a pot.
Serve the fideua in individual dishes with a good spoonful of alioli sauce. Enjoy!
By Laura | Lau Sunday cooks