Cuttlefish & Potato Stew aka Sípia amb Patates


2018-02-15

This stew is one of my favorite things to eat on a cold winter day. However, that wasn’t always the case: I used to hate it as a child. Let’s just say I thought its taste was wrong. I didn’t understand what was going on in the plate placed in front of me. I liked cuttlefish, I liked potates, I liked allioli… Why didn’t I like the taste of all these ingredients together? It turns out I was missing something. The two secrets to make this recipe taste like it does are the spleen from the cuttlefish (yes, you read it right) and chocolate. My mum likes to refer to the spleen as simply poop, which is understandable but technically wrong. I guess it makes eating this dish an exotic and exciting activity. Spleen can be added to a wide range of recipes, such as paella, to add umami taste. I’m not sure what role chocolate has in this recipe, but my mum adds it to paella as well. She says it makes a difference, and it sure is an insteresting ingredient to add to fish recipes.

I would say this recipe is like beer or wine: it takes a while to get used to its taste. It took me 20 years to start appreciating it (although I must say I’ve given up on beer and wine). Now I eat it at least once every time I visit Catalonia for Christmas. My mum usually makes it when we’re in Ejulve, my grandma’s hometown.

So, scroll down to read my mum’s recipe for sípia amb patates. I’ve eaten other versions of this stew and they were, frankly speaking, really boring compared to this one.

Bonus funny story, in case you’re procrastinating and don’t really want to start cooking just yet:

As I mentioned above, my mum makes this soup when we’re in Ejulve. More specifically, she makes it on the day we arrive. The house is not warm yet and this soup is perfect for warming ourselves up. Sometimes, when my mum is in the middle of cooking this soup, my great-uncle and his wife pop up to say hi and see what we’re up to. Because this soup smells so delicious, they’re always curious about the soup and annoyed at the fact that they’re not invited when we have good food. One day, my mum decided to finally invite them so that they could finally taste this recipe they’d never tried. It turned out they didn’t even like it. Which is fine. As I said, it might take a while to get used to its taste. What’s funny is that, to this day, whenever they come say hi and my mum is making this soup, they still get mad for not being invited to a plate of such good food.

Ingredients for the stew:

  • Whole cuttlefish (1 per person)
  • 1 onion
  • Floury potatoes (1 big potato per person)
  • Garlic cloves from an entire head of garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • Water
  • Allioli

Ingredients for the allioli:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 egg yolk

Preparation:

  1. Clean the cuttlefish and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Remember to save the spleen: it’s what gives this dish its distinct flavor.
  2. Chop the onion and sauté it in a pot with butter until golden.
  3. Peel the potatoes and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Put the cuttlefish into the pot and sauté it gently.
  5. Add the potatoes, the bay leaves, the garlic cloves and the cocoa poweder. Mix well.
  6. Cover with water and let it simmer for an hour, or until the potatoes are cooked and the liquid thickens due to the potato starch. Mashing the potatoes with a ladle will help achieve the desired consistency.
  7. Serve with a teaspoon of allioli. Here’s a video on how to make it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any video in English. There are a lot of English videos where they teach you how to make allioli, but what they actually teach you to make is mayonnaise, even if it says allioli on the title. For the love of God do not add mayonnaise to this recipe. If you don’t know how to make allioli, then just eat this stew as is, but do not use mayonnaise.