I have decided to unveil the secret of my “arroz a banda” which is one of my favourite Spanish rice recipes and it is also cooked in a Paella. A Paella is a container used in Spain to cook some rice recipes, therefore the dish known as “Paella” takes its name from the container in which it is cooked. It is for this reason that “Arroz a Banda” could be considered a type of Paella as well as all the other Spanish rices cooked in this container. Arroz a Banda is originate from Alicante, my hometown. However, it is a recipe popular all along the Mediterranean Spanish coast from Murcia to Catalonia.
Arroz a banda translated into English would be something like “Rice apart” and this is because fishermen used to use the fish leftovers for cooking a broth, then they used part of the water to boil rice that it is the “arroz a banda”. Meanwhile they made money by selling the better fish. It is normally served with a sauce called “ali-oli” which is made with olive oil and garlic.
Something that has surprised me from England is the difficulty to find fresh fish. It is quite common to find fish shops in Spain all around, where you can buy fish leftovers for a tiny amount of money or even free. The fish stock should be cooked with leftovers since the purpose of doing this is that the water resulted will have absorbed the flavor from the fish and then it is used to cook the rice. You may want to buy the fish to make the stock but it will be a waste since it will not be used eventually. This is because as mentioned before the purpose of doing this is that the water absorbs the flavor. A quick and cheap alternative is to use one of those fish stock cubes that can be found easily in any food shop. It may not result as tasty as with the fish leftovers but still it is more than acceptable.
There is not a definitive recipe of “arroz a banda”, depending on the region the ingredients can vary. For example some people like using cuttlefish. I will list the ingredients that I normally use next (four portions):
For the fish Stock:
– 1 kg of rock fish (scorpion fish, red fish, etc) or other fish such as monkfish, gilthead bream, shellfish and crustaceans, fish heads, etc.) However, you can use any type of fish for the leftovers such as heads and bones or a fish stock cube as explained above. You will use this water later on to cook the rice and the amount of water should be double of the rice used. So for example, for 500 grams of rice, boil one litre of water with the left overs for 20 minutes or with the fish cube for 5 minutes.
For the rice:
– 500 grams of Valencian rice. This is very important, don’t try to use some other type of rice, although Japanese rice is quite similar to Valencian one.
– One medium size pepper
– 400 grams of squid, if fresh much better. You can find frozen squid in Asda as alternative.
– 400 of prawns. I recommend to use a pack of frozen peeled prawns that can be found in any food shop.
– 200 grams of raw tomato. You can use either grated natural tomato or buy a tin of Tomato purée. I recommend the latter.
– 1 Medium Onion
– 3 cloves of garlic
– Some strands of zafron or food coloring. Being the latter cheaper.
– Olive oil and salt
– One of the characteristics of this rice recipe is the use of a type of pepper called ñora that only grows Spanish region of Murcia. It is hard to find it outside Spain, however I will include it in the recipe in case you could find it. As an alternative you can use a tbs of paprika.
On a Paella pan or a frying pan with the olive oil, fry the ñora(if you don’t have it, then use the paprika when you have to add the tomato later on) then mash it with a grinding bowl and keep it aside for later.
In the same oil, add the pepper and the onion chopped in small pieces. After a few minutes add the squid chopped as well and the peeled prawns. Fry all a few minutes and then add the tomato, the rice and the mashed garlic. Stir everything at high heat.
Frying the rice for a few minutes it is important since it will remain loose, something considered essential in this recipe. Add the salt and the zafron or the food coloring and then add the water from the fish stock. It is possible to make this recipe in an ordinary frying pan but you will have to add a bit more of water. So for example, if you are using 500 grams of rice, instead of one litre, use 1.2 litres. The precise amount of water is very important, otherwise your rice will be overcooked, which is considered a real disaster by the Paella experts. I would stick to the initial amount of water used but If for some reason you really reckon that you are short of water, try to add a bit more of boiling water in the pan, never use lukewarm water because the rice will most likely result overcooked.
Cook at high heat for 5 minutes and then at low heat for 15 minutes. Once the paella is finished, use a clean kitchen cloth to cover it for 5 minutes and then it will be ready to serve.
You will probably need several attempts before you master this recipe but if you follow these simple steps it will take you less time. Enjoy!!