Jose Pizarro’s recent guide to Spanish cooking with rice and the chance finding of some Unearthed Catalan cooking sausages at a local store really got me in the mood to embrace the virtues of Spains cuisine; “No, not Spanish, Catalan” (Anya von Bremzen).
Catalonia (Catalunya) is a country within a country, with its own language, complex history and a wealth of artistic & culinary traditions. Catalan food blends Roman, Arabic and even Italian influences into one of Europes most interesting and distinctive cuisines; which today runs the gamut from rustic to the ultra refined. This region is of course the turf of Ferran Adria and his experimental disciples of elegant modern food art at El Buli. Yet Catalan cuisine keeps its roots in robust grills served with garlicky allioli, rust-coloured seafood stews to warm your cockles, earthy casseroles inland in which meats, poultry or the much beloved salt cod (bacalo) might be rather funkily paired with dried fruits, honey or even chocolate and most temptingly for me at least rich and bracing rice dishes.
Where to start though with these lovely sausages? How could I make the most of them?
Luckily enough for me Jose did a live web chat over on the Word of Mouth blog, giving me chance to ask for a little advice.
Jose suggested that to make the best of the ingredients I had to hand, I make arroz caldoso (soupy rice) — one of those much loved rich and bracing rice dishes. So onward to the stove armed with Bomba rice, sausages and various store cupboard staples to make a stunningly quick and delicious meal.
Arroz caldoso is basically a ‘soupy’ rice dish not all that dissimilar from paella in terms of flavour and risotto in terms of its aesthetic qualities. One huge advantage arroz caldoso has over risotto is that you don’t have to stand laboriously over the stove stirring away. Arroz caldoso should be like a soupy stew with a drop of the broth left on the top of the rice so you can get a bit of the broth with each bite.
The key is to use the right kind of rice, Spanish rice (Calasparra and Bomba being the most well known) is rounded and short; it absorbs liquid very well, and it stays relatively firm during cooking. Unlike risotto rice the Spanish rice stays separate and relatively ‘dry’ rather than creamy.
The sausages were incredibly dense and meaty, delectably flavoured with fennel and black pepper.
It is hard to believe that something so simple could become something so delicious. Just some rice, garlic and herbs along with some top notch sausages, meld together to create such a wonderfully flavoured meal.
Despite the meal being warming and comforting it also brought a burst of sunnier climes to our meal; no bad thing given that we’ve had an exceptionally cold and miserable winter here.
So If you’ve never made paella because it sounds a bit complicated, this arroz caldoso or soupy rice is for you — it’s very easy to do and tastes absolutely fantastic! What are you waiting for?