Thursday, 8 January 2015

Arroz negro

Finland (and subsequently I) is going through the darkest period of the year. Literally. In the morning my brain simply refuses to accept the sounds of the alarm, demanding I get out of bed and try to make something of my day. 

None of this is, of course, helped by the fact that neither one of us is a morning person, though it manifests itself in very different ways. The Boy Next Door is paralyzed completely and left to form sentences only after his 7th pint of coffee. And even then, only using lyrics by Pink Floyd. I on the other hand are so full of boiling rage as I try to get the circus on the road I'm surprised my skin hasn't melted away. By the time we're finally out the door, an hour behind the intended schedule (somewhat inevitable result of first hitting the snooze for an hour straight) The Boy Next Door's ridiculously optimistic observations on how "luckily it's only -4" offer no consolation. IT IS COLD! IT IS A GOOD 21 DEGREES BELOW WHAT CONSTITUTES GOOD LIVING!

But if one is hellbent on finding something good to say about the weather it is not having to worry about frozen goods thawing on the way home from the shop. This is what I kept telling myself as I was waiting for the tram the other day, not being able to feel my toes and the freezing wind plastering my eyes shut. Black day called for black rice.

Arroz Negro is a dish typical for Valencia and Catalonia. Sometimes also called Black paella, it gets its regally rich black colour from squid (or cuttlefish) ink. Mine came in 4 g sachets, but especially if you clean and prep your own squid (or cuttlefish), feel free to use the one harvested from them. For instructions as to how to, please see here.

At its simplest the dish consists of squid (or cuttlefish), rice and green pepper. Instead of pepper (which would go into the dish after the onions) I used wakame seaweed left over from that mung bean noodle salad. My initial plan was to whip up a vibrant green vinaigrette of some sort to drizzle around the edges of the dish but in the end (having ran out of both patience, time and creativity) I just folded the seaweed into the dish. A nice addition though as it lends the dish nice, equally oceany lightness. 

Arroz negro differs from its Italian cousin risotto in that all the stock goes into the pan at the same time and is then left to be absorbed over gentle simmer. There's also not a whole lot of stirring involved, so the end result is not as creamy as risotto would be. In case that's the preferred consistency, do add the stock one ladle at a time and towards the end fold in some mascarpone. 

Serves four:

2 shallots
3 dl risotto rice or paella rice
1,5 dl white wine
1-1,25 l shellfish stock (homemade or shop-bought)
25 g squid ink
600 g cleaned squid (frozen whole ones 1 kg)
150 g wakame seaweed
(2 generous tbsp mascarpone)

to serve: the zest of 1/2 lemon, handful of chopped parsley

Marinade for the squid:

1/4 dl olive oil
the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 - 1 red chilli (depending on your taste and marinating time)
2 garlic cloves

Thaw the squid, clean (for how-to, see here!) and cut into 1 cm-rings. Pat dry. Combine the ingredients for the marinade, pour over the squid and leave to marinate while preparing the rice (or longer, depending on how much time you've got). For a short cut you can skip this phase and toss in the squid to cook with rice before the stock goes in. Drain wakame if needed.

Prepare the rice. Finely chop the onions, sauté in butter and then add rice. Let that, too, sauté until translucent and then add wine and ink. Let those be absorbed and then add stock. Let simmer until rice is almost done (10-20 minutes), adding more stock if needed. A little before the rice is done, drain the squid and fry on a hot (griddle) pan and toss into the rice to finish cooking. Keep the tentacles for serving.

When the rice is cooked (much like with risotto, you want the consistency to be a bit on the loose side as it will set quickly anyway!) fold in wakame (and mascarpone is using) and parsley, leaving some to sprinkle on top of the dish, too. Check the taste and season as needed.

Sprinkle lemon zest and reserved parsley on top along with the tentacles and serve. 




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