Arroz negro or Black Paella is a popular rice dish on the Mediteranean coast of Spain made of cuttlefish, its ink, some lovely fish stock, white wine, onions and bomba rice.
A famous dish in Spain, is the famous “arroz negro” made with the fresh ink of cuttlefish. I don’t know why they call it “black rice” instead of “black paella” since it’s done exactly like a paella, with the same bomba rice and it served in the paella pan… Usually served with a Aioli sauce (garlicy mayonnaire). Nonetheless, this dark paella is my personal favorite of them all!
I know it can be challenging for some, even for me at first, the color and the fact that you eat the cuttlefish ink… but if you are courageous enough to take the first bite. Oh my! You will discover another world! The ink actually is a mouthful of sea aromas, saline, it’s really a flavour of its own. But if you want to be submerged into that meal… you’ll have to be brave enough to take the first bite and then it will become one of those printed memories you always dream of. I’m not kidding… it’s so sad sometimes that our minds blocks us from stuff simply based on color…
The dish comes from Valencia, Spain. It’s usually made with cuttlefish, as I said earlier, its ink, red pepper, onion, garlic, wine and fish stock. I did a slightly different one, I’ve used mini squids (Chipironnes) to decorate the dish instead of the usual shrimps. You can use whether cuttlefish or squid, frozen or not, since they are practically the same. I recommend also to make a few grilled up shrimps to top your black paella, it looks exquisite also and much easier to find.
Where to get the ink?
As for the ink, they sell it online, in paste or powder form, on Amazon here is the link. Otherwise, check your local European market or fishmonger. In Spain, I use for one medium size paella, 4 packs of 4 g which are small frozen sachets, the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of conserved ink. Just to let you know a little bit goes a long way.
What is a ‘Picada’?
A picada is pretty much in every meal in Spain, it’s basicaly a last fresh touch to a meal with aromatics, garlic, olive oil and sometimes nuts. It’s usually mashed in a mortar and added in the last minute or two of cooking to give a last kick to the dish. May sound like too much of a step to do but believe me it’s worth the 2 minutes it takes to make it.
How to serve?
Don’t forget to serve this dish with napkins or hand towels since it can become nasty pretty fast… but the mess this dish does is really worth it! Maybe except for a first date… but then again could make an even more memorable date!
So… let’s make this Spanish black paella!
Black Paella (arroz negro)
- paella pan for 4 a big pan will do to
- 400 g cuttlefish or squid ( cut into small cubes)
- 600 ml fish stock (preferably homemade )
- 300 g Bomba rice (round grain rice)
- 100 ml white wine
- 15 g cuttlefish ink
- 2 tomatoes (grate the inside of each half onto a cheese grater to collect only the juice and flesh )
- 1/2 red bell pepper (cut into small cubes)
- 1 onion (chopped finely)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 hand flat leaves parsley
- 1 tsp paprika (sweet or spicy)
- salt and pepper
Picada (The last touch of flavors added at the end of cooking)
- 1/2 garlic clove
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp flat leave parsley (finely chopped)
- Start by sauté in the pan, medium-high heat the cuttlefish, squid in olive oil, reserve.
- In a pot, bring the fish stock to simmer
- Mix a few spoons of fish stock with the ink in a bowl, reserve.
- Add half the wine, 50 ml, to the pan to collect the leftovers from the previously cooked cuttlefish and/or squid.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pan, until soft (about 5 minutes).
- Add the tomato paste (previously grated) and let all its water evaporate (about 3 minutes).
- Makes a hole with the spatula in the center of the pan, add a little extra oil in it and the bomba rice over it, mix constantly until the rice is translucent, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the fish stock and rest of white wine to the rice (about 1 cm or a penny over the surface of the rice) and let it cook at high heat the first 5 minutes, no need to move it (it's no risotto).
- Add the cuttlefish ink mix (from step 4), cuttlefish, squid, paprika, pepper, salt and pepper, mix briefly.
- Lower the heat after the first 5 minutes to medium-low heat, cook for another 15 minutes (until cooked to your liking).
- During that time make the “picada” (aromatics that goes at the end of cooking) in a mortar or small bowl, smash the parsley, 1/2 garlic, salt and olive oil.
- 2 minutes before the end, add the picada, mix, then add the precooked shrimps or mini calamar on top.
- Once done, take off the heat, cover with a clean towel and let it rest 5 minutes before serving.