During one of our first trips to Portugal, a couple of friends took us to Olhão, a traditional fishing town in the East Algarve. According to them, the location of some of the best seafood restaurants in the Algarve. After some sightseeing, and a visit to the iconic market, we headed to the main avenue just across the street, an avenue packed with small restaurants specialized in frutos-do-mar. We ordered Arroz de Marisco, and though I can’t recall the name of the restaurant we chose, the memory of the pot of steaming seafood rice we were served is still vivid in our minds!
Arroz de Marisco is a seafood classic from the Portuguese Cuisine. Despite its creation being associated to a beach in Central Portugal – Praia de Vieira de Leiria, it is widely available in many restaurants across coastal Portugal. It usually comprises of a variety of shellfish, peppers, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and short-grain rice making an indulgent and delicious dish. For those that are not convinced yet, it was also selected in 2011 as one of the 7 wonders of the Portuguese gastronomy.
What Seafood to Use in Arroz de Marisco?
For this recipe we are using three types of shellfish: prawns, clams and mussels. However, like many Portuguese recipes, the ingredients list can vary substantially. Some recipes we came across include lobster and crab meat. However, what shellfish to use will depend on the availability of ingredients, your personal preferences, and budget. We find it very important to use fresh prawns, as their skin is the base ingredient for the broth used to cook the rice. Keep in mind that any extra shellfish added will add extra flavours to the broth and complexity to your dish.
Portuguese Seafood Rice Recipe
This might not be one of the fastest recipes to prepare, but we can guarantee it is worth every minute of the time spent in the kitchen. Top up your glass of white and get ready to prepare this delicious Arroz de Marisco!
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 500g medium sized fresh prawn – gambas
- 250g clams – amêijoas
- 400g mussels – mexilhão
- 1 medium sized red pepper – diced
- 2 large onions – diced
- 4 garlic cloves – minced
- 400g Carolino rice
- Olive oil
- 1tbsp butter
- Fresh coriander
- Dry white wine
- Place the clams in a bowl and cover them with saltwater. Do the same with the mussels and set them aside for at least one hour, but longer if possible.
- Meanwhile, prepare the prawns: remove the head and tail, then peel each one of them. If needed, remove the dark vein located along the back of the prawn. Thoroughly rinse the peel you removed and set it aside.
- Place a tall saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add a drizzle of olive oil, then lightly fry 1 onion and 2 garlic cloves for around 2 minutes. Add the prawn skin to the frying pan, let it fry for another 5 minutes.
- Drain and rinse the clams and mussels, use a soft brush to scrub any dirt from the shells. Add them to the saucepan where the prawn skin is being fried. Let it simmer for about 2 minutes until the shells open. Remove the clams and mussels from the saucepan, leaving the other ingredients behind as they will be the base for the broth. Discard any shells that remained closed. Set aside.
- Cover the remaining ingredients with 2 litres of boiling water. Let it simmer over low to medium heat for approximately one and a half hours. Use a hand mixer to blend everything, strain it through clean fabric or a colander with small holes.
- Place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1tbsp of olive oil, the remaining onion, and the bell pepper. Fry everything for around 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice, let it cook for 2 minutes before you add 1 cup of white wine.
- Once the wine is completely absorbed, gradually add the warm broth, stirring between every addition. Make sure the liquid is fully absorbed by the rice before adding more broth.
- Meanwhile, place a frying pan over medium to high heat, add a tsp olive and fry the shrimp in batches till golden brown. Add the mussels and clams to the frying pan, and the remaining garlic. Let it cook for about 2 minutes. Deglaze it with some white wine, season with salt and pepper. We like to keep a few of the mussels and clams in the shell for aesthetic purposes, but it’s best to remove the majority of them from their shells.
- Combine the cooked rice and the shellfish. The mixture should be creamy and juicy. Add a splash more of broth and the butter. Season with salt and pepper, then top it with some chopped fresh coriander.
As always, we love hearing from you! Let us know your review in the comments! For some other delicious seafood recipes, take a look at our recipe for Ameijoas à Bulhão Pato, the traditional method of serving clams. Or for something a little different Carne de Porco à Alentejana, and dish from the Algarve that combines clams and pork.
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