do mariscos - shellfish rice
de Pera, Portugal and Topsham, Devon August 14, 2007 We were
fortunate to escape the English monsoons this summer as we happened
to be on our summer holiday in Portugal during the terrible storms
that engulfed Tewkesbury, Gloucester and the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire.
Way down on the Algarve, enjoying the usual mid-summer heat and sunshine,
it was hard to believe the pictures that we saw in the papers and
on television of the devastation caused by the rising waters of the
Severn, Avon, Thames and other rivers. Devon, it seems, this time
fortunately missed the brunt of the storms, but we know very well
how precarious and on-the-edge life by the water can be, idyllic
though it usually is.
escaped from possibly the wettest summer – May, June
and July certainly – that I can remember, and though it was relatively
cool in the Algarve by usual standards, with a brisk northerly wind
keeping things fresh, it was still good to feel the sun on our backs.
We enjoyed the usual mix of activities, swimming, boating, tennis,
lazing on the beach and, of course, much eating and drinking.
dish I always look forward to is arroz do mariscos,
one of my favourite foods in the world. This Portuguese hotpot inevitably
comes bubbling to the table, piping hot and straight out of the oven.
It is a magnificent celebration of the sea, a richly flavoured shellfish
and fish soup, with enough rice to make it almost a sort of gruel,
filled with a wonderful mixture of fish and shellfish, perhaps some
chunks of tamboril (monfish), some ameijoas (clams), santola (spider
crab), gambas (prawns), lulas (squid) and much else,
all flavoured in a rich broth spiked with piri piri and redolent of
lots of garlic and coentra – fresh coriander.
always difficult to recreate dishes enjoyed abroad once back home.
But it’s fun to try, all the same. And this time, I think
I have really cracked it! This recipe tastes just like we enjoy it
as O Serol in Armaçao
da Pera, one of our all-time favourite restaurants. The key, I believe,
is the gutsy, richly flavoured fish and shellfish soup in which to
cook the rice. On the Algarve, such fish soups are made with inexpensive
fish such as carapau – horse
mackerel – so I think that our own West Country mackerel gives
just the right flavour.
250 g raw prawns in the shell (peel and save the shells to make the
250 g squid, cleaned and cut into rings
400 g monkfish, skinned and boned and cut into even cubes
1 small cooked crab, cleaned and dressed (save the shell to make the
400 g clams in the shell (or if not available, then mussels)
A splash of white wine (for steaming the clams or mussels)
*note: just about any combination of firm white fish and shellfish can
be used, say cod, crab legs, cockles, lobster, whatever is fresh and
available from the fishmonger
For the soup
2 mackerel, cleaned and cut into chunks
About 4 litres of fish stock, or white wine and water
Small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Big handful of coriander stems, coarsely chopped
Piri piri chillies to taste (I like this quite hot but not everyone
4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper
Prawn shells, crab shell from above
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Large bunch of fresh coriander
2-3 cups of Carnaroli or long grain rice
make the fish soup. Sautée the chopped onion and garlic in a generous
glug of olive oil. Add the mackerel and sautée briefly, then add
the fish stock, or wine and water, or just water. Bring to the boil,
then skim, and turn down to a simmer. Add the coriander stems, piri
piri pepper, coarsely chopped tomatoes, the prawn and crab shells
and any other fish trimmings (skin and bones from the monkfish).
Leave to cook down for about 45 minutes. Strain and season with salt
and pepper to taste.
the clams or mussels in a splash of white wine until just opened,
about 3-5 minutes depending on the size of the shellfish. If small,
leave in the shell; if using larger mussels, then take most of the
mussels from the shell, keeping aside maybe a quarter in the shell.
Strain the cooking liquid to remove any grit and add to the fish
large pot, (preferably earthenware or cast iron), sautée the
onion and whole cloves of crushed garlic gently in olive oil. Add
the strained fish soup and bring to a simmer. Add the rice. Bring
to the boil, then cook at a low simmer for about 15 minutes, then
add the raw prawns, squid, monkfish, white and brown crab meat
and the clams or mussels. Stir well, cover
and place immediately in a very hot oven, pre-heated to 225 degrees
C, for 15-20 minutes.
before serving, garnish with freshly chopped coriander, and bring
the bubbling, piping hot pot to the table. The smells that emerge
as you take off the lid are simply sensational!
suggestion: We are huge fans of Portuguese vinho verde, especially
bone dry examples made from characterful indigenous grapes such as
Alvarinho and Loureiro. Favourites include Muralhas and Quinta
da Aveleda. Alternatively enjoy with a full-flavoured Portuguese
white such as Planalto, or a zesty shellfish favourite such Vermentino