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The Buenvino Cookbook
Serves 12

We tasted our first black rice in the centre of Barcelona, cooked over a wood fire in the back yard of some old buildings not far from Las Ramblas. This is where our friends Toby and Xus had their living space and design studio in the late 1990s. To find it you had to walk through an arch off a narrow street into a courtyard, where artisan workshops and tall, charming old buildings were sadly scheduled for demolition. Our friends lived up an iron staircase in a glass-sided studio, with a sleeping platform above.

On a steamy summer’s evening, after all the downstairs workshops closed and just as the sun was going down, candles were placed in glasses up the metal stairs to the studio and Toby lit a fire on the cobbles, using off-cuts from the carpenter’s shop below. When the fire had subsided, an iron tripod was set up over it, with a wide paella pan on top. The smoke added charm to the dish and we drank a glass or two of good white Penedès wine as we watched the dark pan bubbling over the gentle flames and hot coals.

When you are buying the monkfish for this dish, ask the fishmonger for the head and bones (and ask him to remove and discard the gills). Use them to make the stock.

The squid or cuttlefish ink is vital to the final flavour and colour of the dish. Your fishmonger will either set it aside for you, or you can buy frozen ink in sachets... in this case two sachets would do. If you have problems finding it, look online for stockists.

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© 2023 Jeannie & Sam Chesterton / Bene Factum · Reproduced with permission.
  • Step 1

    Bring the fish stock to a boil in a pan, then reduce to a slow simmer. In a paella pan (or large earthenware dish) cook the cuttlefish or squid in a little olive oil until just done (two minutes).

  • Step 2

    Add the onions, with more oil if needed, and cook until soft, then the tomatoes. Cook, stirring well, until they almost dissolve.

  • Step 3

    Add the remaining fish and shellfish and mix in well. When the mussels have opened, take a few of the most handsome and keep them to one side to decorate the dish. Remove the others from their shells and discard the shells (also discard any mussels that refuse to open). Remove the prawns (if using) and put to one side with the mussels so they keep their bright colour.

  • Step 4

    Add the ink to the cuttlefish pan. If you have ink sacs, place them in a sieve over the pan and crush them with the back of a spoon. Add the rice and stir until coated with the inky mixture. Slowly add the hot stock, stir and bring to the boil. Add the garlic and parsley and salt to taste.

  • Step 5

    Reduce the heat and cook slowly for 15–20 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed but the rice is still creamy. Don’t stir.

  • Step 6

    When the dish is ready, return all the shellfish, decorating with the pink prawns (if using) and the reserved mussels in their shells, orange side up. Remove from the heat, cover with a clean tea towel and allow it to stand for five to 10 minutes before serving. The rice will absorb the flavours as the tea towel absorbs the steam; heat will permeate the mussels and prawns on the top of the dish.

  • Step 7

    Remove the tea towel when ready to eat and, before taking the pan to the table, sprinkle with parsley. Serve on warmed plates.

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