Tapas – little dishes of bite-size food – are usually eaten before dinner. They’re served in bars all over Spain, and Americans have embraced tapas as an easy way to learn to cook Spanish food.
¾ cup sunflower oil
6 cloves garlic, 4 left whole and 2 finely chopped
2 dry chiles, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 onion, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 pinch saffron strands
2¼ pounds varied fish, such as monkfish, red bream and squid, cleaned, prepared as necessary and cut into bite size pieces
Generous 2¼ cups short-grain rice
Heat half the oil in a shallow heavy-base flameproof pan over medium heat. Add the 4 whole garlic cloves and the chiles and pan-fry, stirring, until they are browned. Take care with the oil, as chiles burn very easily. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pan and set aside.
Stir the onion into the hot oil and pan-fry. Add three-quarters of the tomatoes and leave both ingredients to pan-fry. Crush the remaining garlic in a mortar with the saffron and salt, which prevents the garlic slipping, then add a little water. Pour this into the tomato mixture.
Add the fish to the pot with 2 2/3 quarts cold water and season with salt. Slowly bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer over low heat for a couple of minutes, just until all the fish is cooked through. Remove the pot from the heat and gently strain. Keep the fish warm and reserve the cooking liquid.
Heat the rest of the oil in a skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the remaining tomatoes and pan-fry. Add the chopped garlic and the rice and stir around, pan-frying everything together for a couple of minutes. Stir in 5 cups of the reserved fish stock and taste to see if the dish needs seasoning, but the stock should be quite salty. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for about 25 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Let stand for 3 or 4 minutes and serve the rice in one dish and the fish in another. Makes 6 servings.