Daring Cooks August: Viva España!

After last month's daring excursion into the field of molecular gastronomy, the Daring Cooks went back to basics this month with a rustic Spanish dish: Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes by José Andrés. Our host is Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga's Recipes.

José Andrés is one of the most important Spanish chefs at the moment, and has trained under Ferran Andria at El Bulli, named the world's best restaurant. He now lives in Washington DC where he owns several restaurants. The recipe Olga chose for us comes from his US TV show Made in Spain. You can watch André make the dish here.

We made a few changes to the recipe. We couldn't find cuttlefish, so we exchanged that for a frozen seafood mix which had squid, octopus, blue mussels, clams, and shrimp. We didn't have the patience for boiling and cleaning fresh artichokes, so we got canned artichoke hearts. Also, no Spanish rice to be found in Uppsala, so we used Italian arborio rice. It's commonly used in risotto and is very good at soaking up flavors, so it was a good substitute. We halved the recipe, except for the sofregit, which will be used in some future concoction.

The optional part of the challenge was allioli, which I guess is a Spanish version of aioli. We were given two recipes, a traditional one with only garlic, olive oil, salt and lemon juice, and a modern one which also has an egg and uses a different method. We made the traditional recipe, using a mortar and pestle to bash the garlic and then slowly mushing in the oil, drop by drop- it's very cool that you can get something akin to mayonnaise from bashed garlic and olive oil. The allioli was very garlic-y! We are playing our yearly croquet championship with a group of friends tomorrow, and joked that we will only have to breathe on the balls and they will roll off! I liked the allioli and nearly finished the spoonful I put on my plate, but putting only a tiny amount of allioli on each bite. Markus found it way too sharp and didn't finish it.

The dish was easy to make, and we will definitely be making some variation of this in the future - I can see a lot of creativity in terms of ingredients: fish and seafood, chicken, vegetarian or Spanish sausage. We sometimes make paella, normally with a combination of seafood, chicken and chorizo, and we will probably adopt this method of cooking for future paella experiments. To make the vegetables separately as a sofregit was really nice - the flavor was better and the dish didn't get watery from the tomatoes. It was very tasty, and since we for some reason made this at the very last minute (just like last month's Daring Baker's challenge) we were very glad that it was easy and straightforward to make. Thank you Olga for a great challenge!

Wanna see the other Daring Cooks creations (or maybe become a Daring Cook or Baker yourself?!)? Go to the Daring Kitchen and the recipe archive! Our lovely host Olga blogs about the challenge in English and in Spanish.

Dinner is ready! Don't you just love our kitteh table table runner?!

Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes (Arroz marinero con setas, sepia y alcachofas)

4 servings

4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available)
12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
1 or 2 Bay leaves (optional but highly recommended)
1 glass of white wine
2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh)
“Sofregit” (see recipe below)
300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices.
Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice)
Saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)

Cut the cuttlefish in little strips.
Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan.
If you use fresh artichokes, clean them as shown in the video in tip #7. Cut artichokes in eights.
Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
Sauté until we get a golden color in the artichokes.
Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit.
Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
Add some saffron thread to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.
Serve with allioli (see below).

Tentacled goodness!


2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1 Bay leaf
Touch of ground cumin
Touch of dried oregano

Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
Taste and salt if necessary (maybe it’s not!)

Allioli - traditional recipe

4 garlic cloves, peeled
Pinch of salt
Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)

Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

José on the allioli recipe:

It's hard to think that, when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. But don't give up. It's worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you're adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.

Previously completed challenges:
July 2009: Skate, traditional flavors powdered
June 2009: Chinese dumplings (part one and two)
May 2009: Zuni's Ricotta Gnocchi


  1. Excellent execution of Jose's dish! I LOVE the fork photo - I almost want to open my mouth and let you feed it to me....lol

  2. Love that last photo of the octopus on the fork. Hope the Finnish summer is going strong it is cold and sunny in Sydney Australia at the moment. Cheers from Audax in Australia

  3. Wonderful job on this challenge and beautiful photos!

  4. "Tentacled goodness!" Loved that caption. Great job with the challenge. I hope your croquet tournament was a success!

  5. Looks like we made the same shortcuts. Glad yours came out better though.