Fideua – feed-ay-wah, is a Spanish dish similar to Paella, which is perfect for summer eating. It’s cooked in a same way but it’s made with vermicelli pasta instead of rice. It originates in Valencian region of Spain and seemingly was invented by a fisherman who headed out to sea forgetting to take rice to make his dinner. After catching some fish he started to cook a paella, beginning with the sofrito and stock, but when it came to stirring in the rice he found he only had pasta noodles. Necessity being the mother of invention he broke the noodles up and stirred them into the paella (which is also the name of the pan a paella is made in) using all the usual ingredients. This obviously produced a great result as it is now a national dish.
‘Our’ Spanish mother-in-law makes excellent fideua, which is served with alioli (garlic mayonnaise) on the side, it’s truly delicious. I have stood by her side in her kitchen taking notes whilst she cooks, observing all the small tricks that make the dish a success and although hers is still the best, I did get to get a good understanding of how to make fideua, although I have yet to master making a good socarrat. In Spain the crispy bit at the bottom of the paella pan is called socarrat.
There’s quite skill to achieving socarrat, as it’s not burnt food that you’re after but gently caramelised food that’s gone so far that it’s become crispy. It is a prized part of the paella, which is fought over and talked about and very much judged to be part of your success.
I really enjoy seafood fideua but I also enjoy a vegetable fideua, especially in the early summer. The garden is an exciting place to search for dinner in June. Artichokes, carrots, green beans, broad beans, fennel, beetroots, onions, garlic, peas, potatoes, spinach, chard and parsley are all jostling for attention.
This is my take on fideua using vegetables that I picked one late June day. In Spain there are special fideo noodles, which have been toasted, but I use vermicelli pasta and get good results. Maybe I’d get even better results if I toasted them first – now there’s a thought!
Take time to gently fry the vegetables in olive oil and then allow the tomato to reduce and become jammy before seasoning with a little salt then stirring in the noodles, this will ensure a better depth of flavour.
I have taken a short cut in explaining how to make this recipe with only using a jar of artichoke hearts. If anyone wants to know how to prepare fresh artichokes just email me – email@example.com and I’ll send instructions.
The list of vegetables is interchangeable, use the freshest that you can get.Use a wide pan to cook this. Mine is 27 cm across.
Garden Vegetable Fideua
(fid-ay-wah) Serves 3-4
• 1 onion
• 100mls olive oil
• 1 bulb fennel
• 5 fresh artichokes or 1 jar
• 1 red pepper
• 7 cloves garlic
• 2 small courgettes
• 150 g green beans, topped and tailed.
• 3-4 big ripe tomatoes or 1 can chopped tomatoes
• A good pinch saffron soaked in 100mls hot water
• 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
• 1 glass white wine
• 250g vermicelli pasta
• 400mls vegetable stock
• 1 lemon
Soak the saffron in 100 mls hot water then put aside to infuse.
Peel the onion and chop finely.
Wash and trim the fennel, cut in half then slice thinly.
Wash the red pepper, remove the seeds then slice in strips.
Gently heat the pan, add the olive oil, onion, fennel and red pepper.
Cook on a medium heat stirring frequently for ten minutes. Don’t allow to brown.
Slice or dice the courgette into small chunks and stir in and cook for a minute or two.
Peel and chop the garlic, stir together with the vegetables, cook for two minutes, then add the chopped or grated tomato and a glass of white wine, season with a little salt and stir in the sweet smoked paprika. Snap the green beans in half, then add in. Allow everything to bubble up, then reduce the heat and gently reduce the sauce until thick and jammy. At this stage check the seasoning, if you are happy, stir in the vermicelli pasta – I roughly break it up but not too small.
Stir the pasta into the sauce until well coated, cook for a minute or two then add the saffron plus soaking liquid and 450 mls vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, stir once then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. DO NOT STIR AGAIN.
Drain the artichokes and dot about on top of the noodle then give them a little nudge to help settle in.
Cook for approx 5-6 minutes, the liquid should be absorbed and the noodles tender. Take off the heat, cover with a cloth or a newspaper, then leave to relax for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with lemon wedges and alioli (garlic mayo).
I have added a little mustard to this alioli to stabilise it but if you want to make true alioli omit the mustard and go super slowly with the oil
• 1tsp Dijon mustard
• 3 cloves garlic
• a pinch of salt
• 1 egg yolk
• 150 mls olive oil
Crush the garlic with the salt then whisk together with the mustard and egg yolk.
Slowly drizzle the olive oil onto the egg yolk, whisking continuously, until emulsified, before adding more oil.
For a vegan version, omit the egg yolk but be super cautious, adding the oil drip by drip
Enjoy the summer!
Lettercollum Kitchen Project,
22, Connolly Street, Clonakilty