Arroz a la Banda

Arroz a Banda from Rohan Daft's book  "The menú del día"

Arroz a Banda (literally, 'rice on the side') is the antithesis of the flashiest saffron and shrimp-pink paella - but it is one of Spain's greatest and most popular rice dishes. In this recipe, rather than using just the fish stock, Rohan shows you how to make both a first and second course in one go !!

Fish are filleted, poached in a stock made from their heads and bones and any available crustacea, and eaten with Aliolli (garlic mashed with olive oil). The rice is then cooked paella-style in the fish stock and eaten as a second course.

Arroz a Banda comes from the rice fields of Alicante, the southernmost province of Valencia, and, as is generally the way with Spanish fish-based rices and stews. The clever, slightly spicy, and cheering method of adding the salsa salmorra to the rice in the cooking (it is more usually served on the side, which is what you should do if you want a traditional arroz a banda)is the way that Mari Carmen Veìlez and Norberto Vera do it at the busy La Sirena (The Mermaid) just outside Alicante town, where, every lunchtime Tuesday through Sunday, three out of every four customers order whichever of their grand repertoire or arrozes they are preparing that day.

Ingredients (serves four)

  • 2Kg of mixed whole fish (sea bream, monkfish tail, bass or mullet but nothing oily)
  • 16 mussels
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 Ñoras (small, dried red peppers) or half a teaspoon of pimentón (sweet paprika)
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 115ml (4 fl oz)  white wine (optional)
  • Sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 large shrimp, unpeeled
  • 8 cockles
  • Allioli (Garlic Mayonnaise)
  • 6 threads saffron
  • 460 ml (16 fl oz)  Paella rice


Fillet the fish and place their heads and bones with half of the mussels, half the onion, the bay leaf, 1 whole clove of garlic, the dried red peppers (whole) and 1 tomato, cut in two, in a large pan. Add 1.4l of water and the wine, if using, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes before removing the dried peppers and setting them aside to cool. Continue to simmer the stock for 30 minutes more.

Meanwhile, start to prepare the salsa salmorra by mashing the remaining 3 cloves of garlic together in a mortar with a pinch of salt and ½ tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the remaining 3 tomatoes, skinned and seeded. Cut or tear open the peppers. Carefully remove the seeds with your fingers or by rinsing under the cold tap and scrape off their flesh with a sharp knife. Add the pepper flesh to the garlic and tomatoes in the mortar to finish the salsa salmorra.

Strain the stock into another large pan and continue to simmer.

Heat the remaining olive oil over low heat in a paella pan of approximately 46cm diameter (or a minimum of 36cm). Medium-chop the remaining onion and cook for approximately 15 minutes, until it is soft but not browned.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to a gentle boil and poach the fillets of fish, the shrimp, cockles and the remaining mussels for 5-10 minutes, or until they are done. Remove the fish, shrimp, cockles, and mussels from the stock with a slotted spoon and serve with allioli while the rice is cooking.

Add the salsa salmorra to the onion, stir well, and reduce for 2 minutes. Add the saffron and 900ml of the hot stock. Add the rice, spread it evenly and cook over a low to medium-low heat for approximately 20 minutes, until it has all but absorbed the stock.

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