The essential gastronomic delights of Montsià: rice dishes and mussels

At the point where the River Ebro reaches the sea, in the region of Montsià, El Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park displays its glory. Considered a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, its 320 km2 make it the largest aquatic habitat in Catalonia. If you enjoy birdwatching, you‘ll love spotting the 370 or more species that live there.

Rice is the king

As well as ornithology, Montsià is also a land of gastronomy. It is almost axiomatic that cuisine is the landscape placed in a pot, as the writer Josep Pla said, and nowhere is this clearer than in this region of southern Catalonia. The terrain of Montsià is characterised by a predominance of plains, the omnipresent influence of the Ebro and proximity to the sea. Water and floodplains. An ideal combination for the spread of rice growing as the main economic activity and the basic ingredient for the area’s most notable dishes. Logical, eh?

There are numerous rice dish recipes: arròs a banda (rice cooked in fish stock), arròs negre (rice with squid ink), rice with shrimp and broccoli or arrossejat, a paella made with crabs and rock fish, because fish is another key ingredient in the cuisine of Les Terres de l’Ebre.

Delta de l'Ebre / Mariano Cebolla

Delta de l’Ebre / Mariano Cebolla

Learn to cook the Delta rice dishes

The Hotel l’Algadir del Delta offers a master class in rice cookery. Fancy going? First of all, they take you on a tour to where it all begins: the paddy fields and a mill, in the company of a local farmer. Having been introduced to the product, it’s time to put an apron on and start cooking. Guided by the hotel’s chef, Joan Capilla, you’ll learn how to prepare different recipes using all the varieties of Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) Delta de l’Ebre rice. While you are cooking, you’ll combine each dish with wines from DO Terra Alta and other regions of Catalonia. As the workshop progresses, you’ll find your mouth watering, so we propose the ideal remedy: tasting all the rice dishes. Your paellas will never be the same!

Hotel l'Algadir del Delta

Hotel l’Algadir del Delta

Mussel tasting at a mussel farm

Now you’ve cooked and tasted one of Montsià’s star products, it’s time to try another: mussels. In Alfacs Bay, in Sant Carles de la Ràpita, you can go on a guided tour of one of the mussel farms Musclarium. This is a rectangular wood and concrete structure installed out at sea, where mussels are bred.

Musclarium

Musclarium

On this occasion it’s also a place for gastronomy, as you’ll be tasting the mussels, along with DO Terra Alta wine and cava, on the farm itself. The aroma of the mussels, the calm of the sea, the sea breeze and the outline of Sant Carles de la Ràpita against the blue sky will have you thinking twice about leaving the bay.

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