A Very Spanish Cook Club

Saturday's Spanish cook club was a great success, where we cooked up some really interesting dishes including this amazing looking Arroz Negro (black rice) .

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This unctuous looking rice dish originally from Valencia and the Catalan region of Spain is made with cuttlefish and their black ink. Although made in a similar manner to paella, it isn't classified as such and tends to be wetter and more creamy than Spain's most famous rice dish. I for one prefer the texture as it quite closely resembles an Italian risotto (well to me anyway). 

The inky black colour can be off putting to some  - in fact one of my students remarked "I think it would taste even better if it was white" although it is this rather unusual colour that I find so attractive and enticing. 

Arroz Negro

Serves: 2

You can use either squid (calamari) or cuttlefish for this recipe and ask your fishmonger for the small packets of prepared squid ink. You will need 2 small packs or 1 heaped teaspoon. Double the quantities, as required, for more people – this recipe serves 2.

350 g prepared small squid or cuttlefish (you can use the pre-cleaned squid)

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 small red pepper, seeded and diced

1 large tomato, seeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoons saffron strands, ground (see page 00 - introduction)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons squid ink

500 ml hot fish or chicken stock *

150 g Bomba, Calasperra or Arborio rice

salt and pepper

Roughly chop the prepared squid. Heat the oil in a 25 cm frying pan or shallow flameproof casserole and quickly stir-fry the squid for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Add the garlic and pepper to the pan with a little salt and fry gently for 10 minutes until softened. Add the tomato, paprika, saffron and parsley and cook for a further 5 minutes until the mixture is quite dry.

Place the squid ink in a bowl and stir in a little of the hot stock. Add the rice to the casserole, stir well and then add the squid pieces and inky stock. Stir once and then simmer gently for 20 minutes until the rice is al dente and the stock is creamy and quite sticky. Serve at once.

* Tip: to make fish stock, place fish trimmings and prawn shells etc into a pan with some chopped celery, leek, parsley, thyme and a little salt and pepper. Add 1.5 litres of cold water and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and reserve stock.

We also prepared a small selection of simple tapas, salted some cod and cooked it in a stew with chorizo and potatoes and finished the morning off with some fabulously light and fluffy churros served with a rich chocolate sauce spiked with Pedro Ximenez sherry.

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Churros with Pedro Ximenez Chocolate Sauce

Serves: 6

250 ml water

120 g butter

180 g plain flour, twice sifted

pinch salt

3 medium eggs (size 3)

75 g caster sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

chocolate sauce with Pedro Ximenez

125 g dark chocolate

100 ml single cream

2 tbsp Pedro Ximenez sherry

vegetable oil for frying

Heat the water and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until the butter melts. Tip in the flour and salt and beat well with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the pan edges (this will be almost immediate). Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Using an electric whisk beat the eggs into the dough one at a time until smooth and slightly glossy. Spoon the dough into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm star nozzle.

Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan to a depth of 7 cm until it reaches 170c/330f on a sugar thermometer (or until a small amount of the dough sizzles as soon as it is dropped into the oil). Carefully pipe approximately 15 cm lengths of the dough straight into the hot oil, using a knife to cut the dough off at the nozzle. Fry 3 at a time for 3 minutes until crisp and golden, turning half way through using metal tongs. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Keep warm in a moderate oven while cooking the rest.

Combine the sugar and cinnamon on a plate and roll the churros in the mixture until coated.

Meanwhile, heat the chocolate and cream together in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring, until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and stir in the sherry. Arrange the churros on a platter and serve with the chocolate sauce for dipping.