Wow what a weekend, we have just returned from a wonderful weekend in St Jean de Luz in the Basque region on the boarder of France and Spain. We’re here to immerse ourselves in the wonderful Basque food culture ably guided by Nicki and Jim Jamieson, a Kiwi family that moved here a few years ago from the Bay.
The region is one of contrasts, a place where the mountains and the sea coexist producing a wonderfully diverse culture. The Basque people are one of Europe’s anomalies, with a language totally unrelated to any other in Europe. Their maritime history stretches way back to a time when the rest of the continent was barely able to get out of sight of land, and these glorious, fiercely independent people were crossing oceans undoubtedly beating Columbus to America by a few hundred years.
So it’s in this ancient and secretive culture that we find our selves catching up with great Kiwi friends, who’s family OE has now stretched to 3 years. First order of business is to visit the Fete De Bayonne in the nearby city, the tradition is to dress all in white with a red neck scarf and hit the streets to eat, drink and run with the bulls. I know it sounded a bit like a wind up to me too but we went along with it and were completely blown away to arrive to a scene of over 400,000 packing this ancient city all in white and red with only the occasional tourist desperately trying to buy anything white. Ten hours later we are on the train back to the coast having all had an awesome day with nearly half a million new friends. All I can say the Basque people know how to party, with young and old joining together in celebration of all that is good in life.
Now to this weeks recipe this is a Basque version of a Paella which you find in all the markets and was just superb, I’ve changed it to Pipis but frankly could be made with mussels just as well. As you can see from the photo street food rocks when people are passionate about it.
Arroz con almejas (clams and rice)
Fish stock (I use salmon, but snapper would be great)
Three carrots and a leek, julienned
An onion, chopped
Fresh Pipi’s(soaked in water to remove sand)
a clove or two of garlic, chopped
a cup of short grain rice
saffron and paprika.
Sweat the onion, carrot and leek and garlic in olive oil, in a cazuela or heavy pan until softened. Add the rice, saffron, paprika and stock (add additional water if needed) to just cover and simmer till soft. Add the clams and raise heat till clams open, discard any that do not. This recipe is adapted from Pedro Subijana’s Akelarre”. “
2kg soaked and washed fish bones
50g fresh herbs
3 litres cold water
12 white peppercorns
2 medium onions
2 bay leaves
2 white leeks
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 sticks celery
600ml white wine
Sweat the vegetables and herbs with the olive oil until soft but without colouring them. Add the fish bones and stir to coat. Add water and wine to cover and bring to the boil. Skim and simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool (about 3 to 4 hours), sieve and store in the fridge or freezer.