Squid ink fideua

This black fideua is so surprising in its fresh sweetness that it will leave your palate a bit confused but wanting to ...
This black fideua is so surprising in its fresh sweetness that it will leave your palate a bit confused but wanting to go back for seconds. Photo: William Meppem

Also known as fideus, fideua is a Catalan dish somewhere between risotto and paella in preparation method but made with thin dried spaghetti instead of rice. If you like hearty seafood dishes like bouillabaisse or cioppino, you'll like this. As with all good seafood stews, pastas and risottos, the key is a fresh, clean and flavourful broth. Take the time to make it yourself. You wont regret it. The blackness of the sauce may be shocking, but the flavour is sweet and saline.


6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1kg meaty fish bones

200ml white wine

2 onions

6 cloves garlic

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1 carrot, thinly sliced

4 dried red chillies

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

2 fresh bay leaves

3 sprigs thyme

pinch of saffron

500g spaghettini

pinch of chilli flakes

1kg squid, cleaned and tubes sliced thinly

sea salt

3 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp squid ink*

18 pipis (about 250g)

handful parsley sprigs, leaves picked and chopped

zest and juice of half a lemon


1. To make the fish stock, clean the bones really well and if you are using fish heads, ask your fishmonger to remove the gills and clean out any of the bloodline that may be attached to the spine. (The blood and any remaining internal bits that might be attached make fish stock taste "fishy" in a bad way, as opposed to being deeply flavourful but clean tasting.) Slice one of the onions finely, peel and crush 4 garlic cloves. Set aside.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat and add the bones. Allow them to start browning, flip them over and cook the other side. Add 100ml white wine and let that cook out for a minute. Then add the sliced onion, crushed garlic cloves, celery, carrot, dried chillies, fennel and coriander seeds, bay leaves, thyme and saffron. Saute this mix for a minute or two with a pinch of salt. Top all of this with 2-litres of cold water. Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain stock through a fine strainer and either refrigerate to cook later or pour into a clean saucepan to use straight away.

3. When ready to cook your fideua, preheat the oven to 180 degrees and, if you've refrigerated the fish stock, heat it to a gentle simmer over a low heat.

4. Break the spaghettini noodles in half. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil on a wide, flat baking tray, add the noodles and toss lightly to coat. Toast the noodles in the oven until golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. You will need to shake the tray occasionally so the noodles colour evenly. This happens pretty quickly so don't walk away while the noodles are in the oven. (Toasting the noodles adds flavour and allows them to absorb more stock.)

5. To cook the fideua, finely dice 1 onion and finely mince 2 cloves garlic. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, wide saute or paella pan and saute the onion and garlic with a pinch of chilli flakes.

6. When the onions and garlic are soft, add the squid, season with salt and allow the liquid released from the squid to evaporate. Add the tomato paste and squid ink and mix to combine. Then add the pasta. As it softens it will start to drop into the liquid. Immediately add 100ml white wine and allow that to simmer.

7. Have the stock simmering, in a separate pot, next to the fideua pan. Little by little, ladle in the stock, allowing the mixture to reduce and thicken with each addition, all the while stirring to release the starches from the pasta. Taste your noodles along the way. When they are almost al dente, add just a bit more stock and then stop adding.

8. Add in the pipis, cover the pan slightly and allow the shellfish to cook until opened. The fideua is finished when the "sauce" coats the noodles, the pipis are opened and the squid is tender. This should take about 20 to 30 minutes from the moment you start sauteeing. Finish by sprinkling the dish generously with lemon zest and chopped parsley (and a little chopped chilli, if you wish), drizzling over the remaining olive oil and finally squeezing the juice of half a lemon over everything.

* If you can't get fresh squid ink, look for 4g sachets at selected food stores, especially Italian and Spanish ones.