Fish,  Recipes,  Stews

Seafood rice and beans stew: cooking alongside my grandmother

Hola a todos de nuevo!

I am very pleased to be back after so much time. Honestly, I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last posted a recipe. Did you miss me? Because I have missed you. Apologies if you have been waiting to read new content and you feel I have let you down.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been very busy preparing my trip to Jaen, in southern Spain. You should already know that I was looking forward to visit my grandparents and that I had to postpone the vacation which was originally scheduled for New year’s day. I eventually made it happen at the end of February (yes!) and I enjoyed quality time with them and the rest of my relatives. I went for walks in some beautiful rural areas, ate out a couple of times and, in essence, I re-connected with my deepest roots after three years of absence. This feeling of having my batteries re-loaded now I’ve been back in Oxford for a week it’s much appreciated.

What I enjoy the most when I am in Jaen is the food I eat. Whether at home or in a bar, it’s a real pleasure for me to taste the local flavour because I don’t always have the chance to do so-I didn’t when I used to lived in Barcelona so guess now. This time, I had in mind to cook something with my nans and so I did with my grandmother Rosa-who was previously quoted in the Rice pudding recipe. That couldn’t be any other than her famous Seafood rice and beans stew.

Nan Rosa is truly represented in this recipe. She loves cooking big, nutritious dishes made out of an endless list of ingredients. I can’t remember a holiday in her house without having this for lunch one day and this time was not going to be an exception. As a matter of fact, she had all the ingredients in the pantry ready for use. She was only waiting for me to step up and cook alongside her.

And, all in all, it was a wonderful experience. My grandma is almost 85 years old and sadly is not as fit as she used to be. She’s losing sight and strength and needs help for many of her daily activities. As a consequence, she relies now on frozen and packed ingredients more often in order to avoid making efforts she can’t afford anymore. But what has not changed is that she still uses a clay pan to cook the dish. This is a piece of kitchenware you will find in every Andalusian household (it’s not really popular in the north, though) and gives the food a distinct personality. If ou don’t have one at home (like me) it’s fair to use a standard pan.

To conclude, let me tell you a few funny facts about this stew. My nan always refers to this dish as Empedraillo because it’s very similar to a famous Granada recipe. Also, she often remarks that “it’s the dish of Antonio Molina”, an iconic Spanish singer and actor of the 50’s and the 60’s decades. Molina mentions the dish Arroz con habichuelas (Rice and beans) in his famous song Cocinero, Cocinero which appears to be stuck in my grandma’s mind. Old but gold. I invite you to listen it.


INGREDIENTS (SERVES 5)

  • Canned beans (1 can)
  • Paella rice (200 g)
  • Seafood mix (pick your own fresh produce or, alternatively, buy it from frozen in your supermarket)
  • Fresh squid legs
  • Onion (half)
  • Green pepper (half)
  • Green chilli (1)
  • Carrot (1)
  • Peas (a handful from frozen)
  • Green beans (a handful)
  • Canned tomato (200 g)
  • Bay leave (1)
  • Garlic clove (1)
  • Water or fish stock
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Turmeric

DIRECTIONS FOR COOKING

The first step is always the sofrito. Heat up some olive oil in your pan and chop the onion, the pepper, the garlic clove and the chilli. Simmer until tender with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add then the carrot (chopped in discs), the green beans, the peas and cook all together for a couple of minutes.

Once the above is done, drop all your seafood mix into the pan. If it’s fresh, it will only take a couple of minutes to cook. If, however, it’s from frozen, you will need to wait for the water to completely evaporate. Add also the bay leave.

Pour the tomato and cook at medium heat until it integrates with the rest of the ingredients. After that, it’s time to add the beans and the rice to allow flavour absorption. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Pour the water or fish stock so it’s half inch above the pan content. Add some turmeric, stir, keep the heat on medium power and boil for 15 to 20 minutes. Like the paella process, you will notice the water will gradually vanish as the rice grains grow up in size. But unlike the mentioned recipe, you can stir the food as much as you need-and add more salt if it falls short at any point.

Once the stew is cooked, switch the heat off and let it sit for a couple of minutes. You must cover the pan with a kitchen cloth. After that, it’s ready to serve.

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