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Paella In Barcelona

Paella Fideuà at Can Majo, Barcelona

Rice traveled a long distance to get to Spain, first introduced in the middle ages by Arabs who brought it all the way from India. The Spanish word for rice, "arroz", is derived from the Arabic "roz". Spanish cooks mixed rice with garlic, onions, tomatoes, meat and seafood to create the most iconic dish of their cuisine - paella. In a strange twist of history, paella was brought back to India by the Portuguese, who introduced it to their colony in Goa.

One of the chief attractions of visiting Spain was our chance to eat authentic paella, which we found has as many variations as biryani does in India! A visit to Barcelona led to a marvelous new discovery: Paella Fideuà, made by substituting rice with thin short pasta such as broken up spaghettini. A good place to try Fideuà is Can Majo, a restaurant situated right on the beach with a gorgeous view of the water. Our Fideuà, cooked and brought to us in a traditional paella pan, had very similar flavours to a classic rice paella - the same smoky aromas, the perfectly cooked seafood, the glorious tint of saffron. However, the texture was different - firmer, with a lightly browned crust on top and deliciously unusual!

Goa was a Portuguese colony for over four and a half centuries, and the cuisine that evolved there is a unique fusion of flavors, blending Indian spices and ingredients in Iberian recipes. In my Goan paella, basmati rice, spices, herbs and coconut milk combine with chorizo, paprika and seafood to create a delicious dish that incorporates the best of both cuisines. 

Goan Paella

Goan Paella

This paella is easy to eat with a fork as the seafood has been shelled before adding to the rice. If desired, you can leave the mussels and shrimp in their shells for a more dramatic presentation. nd if you want to substitute noodles for the rice, you can have your very own version of paella Fideuà, Goan style!

1 lb fresh mussels, scrubbed and picked over

1 cup basmati rice

4 tbsp oil, divided

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

4 each: whole cardamom, cloves

1/2 inch stick cinnamon

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 sweet red pepper, finely chopped

1/2 cup thinly sliced smoked Spanish Chorizo sausage

2 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces

whole canned plum tomatoes

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp each: garam masala, cayenne pepper, smoked Spanish paprika, saffron strands or 1 tbsp Bottle Masala

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

3/4 cup canned coconut milk, well shaken

1 cup water

20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

10 large scallops, cut in half widthwise

1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

Place mussels in large saucepan, discarding any that are open. Pour in 1/2 cup water or white wine, cover pan and bring to a boil over high heat. educe heat to medium and cook 5 min or until mussels are just cooked. Stir a couple times in between. Discard any mussels that are unopened. Remove mussels from shells and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup of mussels). Discard shells and cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, wash rice several times under running water, then cover with water and soak 10 min. Drain well in sieve. Reserve.

Warm 2 tbsp oil in large wide bottomed heavy saucepan or paella pan set over medium high heat. Add cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. After a few seconds, when the spices splutter and smell fried, add the onions, garlic, sweet pepper, chorizo and chicken. Saute for 7-8 min or until vegetables are softened. Reduce heat to medium, add tomatoes, crushing them with your hands. Add salt and all the spices. Cook 5 min or until tomatoes have thickened into the sauce. Add wine vinegar, coconut milk and water. Stir gently, then bring to a boil. Add drained rice, mix in gently. Cover pan tightly and bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat to very low and cook 20 min without uncovering the pan in between.

Meanwhile, warm remaining oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add shrimp and scallops. Cook 2-3 min or until shrimp are no longer pink. Do not overcook. Remove from skillet, discarding juices.

Scatter shrimp, scallops, reserved mussels and fresh coriander over rice. Cover and let rice sit 10 min before you mix it gently and serve.

Serves four