There are decisions in life that we all make and we know that they can change our lives forever. For me, one of them was deciding to move with my husband to Australia and leave the comforts of Manila behind. Other decisions, you think are inconsequential but when you look back, you realize that choosing something else would have changed the course of your life in ways you would never imagine.
Ages ago, I briefly dated someone I thought had lots of potential. Cute, smart, great conversations etc… you know what I mean. On our first few dates, I would order “safe date” dishes – nothing you had to eat with your hands (ribs), made your breath stink (prawns in garlic sauce) etc.
Around our fifth or sixth date, I decided we were close enough that I would order Paella Negra – one of my favorite dishes. It’s basically made of squid or cuttlefish, paella rice and sauteed in some of the squid ink. It’s delicious but definitely not a first date dish.
So we ordered it and ate it. After two bites I thought “well, here goes” and I flashed him a great big smile. While he tried to keep his surprise in check, I did notice he was slightly taken aback. I guess he didn’t realize that the ink from these cephalopod babies could stain your teeth.
And things turned quickly from there. He started getting self conscious (must have thought, well if her teeth are stained, so are mine!) and barely said anything throughout the meal. What’s more, he cracked no jokes, bared no smile and when I tried to engage him in more conversation, got monosyllable answers. Not very encouraging.
I decided then and there that this guy was not the one for me. If he could not accept my mouth full of black teeth, he could not accept me. Period. That was it. Fast forward to today… when the daring cooks’ challenge was announced, I immediately thought of that date and how my decision to order the Paella Negra just changed my life completely… for the better of course!
The Daring Cook’s challenge for August was Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish and Artichokes. The original recipe was by Jose Andres but I have varied it so that the resulting dish was more of a Paella Negra. Thank you to Olga for giving us the flexibility to do so.
Recipe (serves 2 to 3)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon squid ink
500 grams squid or cuttlefish
6 pieces fresh prawns, peeled but with head and tail intact
handful of mussels
1 cup calasparra rice
2 1/2 chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper
Equipment – Paella Pan
- Gently saute the onions and garlic with olive oil until the onions are translucent
- Add the cuttlefish and saute for another 3 to 4 minutes over medium heat
- Add the tomato paste, squid ink and cook it out
- Next, add the dry white wine and allow the alcohol to evaporate (2 to 3 minutes)
- Add the rice and spread over the paella pan
- Immediately add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer
- Leave to cook for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, add the prawns and mussels on top of the rice and cover the paella pan with some foil and cook for another 5 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated and the rest of the seafood is cooked through
- Serve with aioli and lemon wedges
Allioli (Traditional recipe)
Cooking time: 20 min aprox.
4 garlic cloves, peeled
Pinch of salt
Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)
- Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
- Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
- Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
- Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
- Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
- Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.
Daring Cooks’ Challenge August 2009