FOR the last few weeks they have been holed up in Granada following a coronavirus travel nightmare (see Olive Press Issue 340). But now British couple Yianni Papoutsis, 44, (founder of MEATliquor in the UK), and Sophie O’Hara, 26, have turned lockdown into a culinary showdown. To kick off their new series of quarantine recipes for the Olive Press, the pair reveal their take on a classic fideua. Stay tuned for more and check out their blog @nice.olation on Instagram.
Fideua (Fidoowayoowaawaa) – serves 2-3
Some time in January 2020 we found ourselves in Barcelona somewhat worse for wear and still starving hungry after a post breakfast ‘pre-esta’.
Feeling a tad fraught at the prospect of having to deal with the complexities of ordering a la carte we reached out to Ella, our close friend and a Barcelona native.
We needed both the liberating simplicity and the rejuvenating qualities of that most wonderful of Spanish institutions: a menu del dia and we needed it within staggering distance of our hotel. We were directed to Can Codina, a decades-old neighbourhood eatery in the Gracia district.
Upon reaching the restaurant we were greeted by a modestly sized dining room packed with locals of every demographic, from builders to businessmen and glamorous yet faded actresses of yesteryear.
Even before we’d been seated, Sophie’s ‘food-dar’ zeroed in on a huge bowl of pasta redolent of saffron and comfort. Deal done.
The menu was scrawled on a bit of paper in Catalan, a language which much to our shame, we understand even less than we do Castilliano.
It doesn’t need stirring (always a plus, particularly nowadays when you might be juggling multiple children, pets, spouses etc.)
Through wild and highly embarrassing gesticulations we managed to identify the dish as what our addled brains heard as ‘fidoowayoowaawaa’, but is actually pronounced ‘fid-ou-ay-aa’ and spelled simply, fideua.
A simple one-pot stew, fideua can most easily be described as short strands of spaghetti cooked in stock in a similar manner to that of a paella.
It was a revelation.
On returning to London we sourced some fideo pasta and started experimenting. Now we’re in nice.olation in Andalucia we’ve found ourselves returning to this dish time and time again in all its various forms, partly due to its ease of cooking and adaptability to all the fantastic local produce.
This version, like everything we cook, is in no way authentic (so please, please, don’t write letters) because part of it’s charm is that it can be made with anything you have in your cupboards.
At its simplest, a handful of vegetables, some fideo pasta and a stock cube will produce results way beyond what you’d expect.
It can be made with any spices which you have to hand, (we’ve even had good results with curry powder for a kedgeree-style meal), it can be vegan, or can be an ideal showcase for pretty much any seafood or fast cooking meat.
It doesn’t need stirring (always a plus, particularly nowadays when you might be juggling multiple children, pets, spouses etc.) and the golden crust that develops on the bottom after letting it sit and cook over a low heat is the key to the dish rather than something to be scared of, just don’t cook it too high and let it go black otherwise it will be bitter.
Go forth, experiment, and add as many weeewoowaas’ as you like. And above all, enjoy.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, whole with skins on
2 large bay leaves
50g chorizo, diced (optional)
100g pork loin, chicken or other protein, cut into chunks (optional)
1 large carrot, diced
1 stick of celery, sliced
1/2 an onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, roughly chopped
1 long thin green pepper, roughly chopped
225g fideo pasta
750ml of whatever stock you have
1 good pinch of saffron
Salt and black pepper to taste
50g frozen peas
Lemon wedges to garnish
Fry the garlic cloves, bay leaves and chorizo (if using) in the oil in a wide frying pan over a medium heat. Brown the chorizo for one minute then remove it from the pan and set aside.
Turn the heat up then and fry the pork (or other protein) until just browned (be careful not to overcook it at this stage). Remove the pork, set it aside then turn the heat down to a medium and fry the vegetables until the peppers and onions have started to colour.
Pour the fideo pasta into the pan and toss it until it is all coated in the oil (about one minute).
Add the stock together with the saffron, reserved meat and chorizo. The liquid should just cover everything in the pan, if it doesn’t top it up with more stock or water. Stir to combine, add salt and pepper to taste, bring to a boil then turn the heat down and simmer uncovered for twelve minutes until almost all of the liquid has disappeared.
Turn the heat down to low for five minutes then sprinkle the peas over the top, straight from the freezer. Do not stir it! Cover with a tight fitting lid and leave off the heat for ten to fifteen minutes. Garnish with lemon, and serve straight from the pan with crusty bread, homemade aioli and a siesta.