Rice Cooked in Fish Stock

Arroz a Banda

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This wonderfully golden, aromatic dish is from the region of Valencia. We had spent much of a morning talking to Ali Zamani Valian, the Commercial Director of the Ibérica de Arroces rice mill, and he was kind enough to invite us to join a small party who were to have lunch at a private club in nearby Oliva. It was a most splendid meal, which, to my surprise, followed an almost Japanese pattern. We started with several fish hors d’oeuvres and a delicious garlicky salad with olives, a succession of small courses that left us feeling already quite satisfied. Then came in this golden arroz a banda, in the big paella pan straight from the kitchen. Our host scored two lines across it with his fork to divide it into quarters, and the four of us set off, each eating his own portion straight from the big dish. I scraped and crunched the crusty layer of rice at the bottom with enthusiasm.

The following is a good recipe, but the result may not be quite as fine as the dish I ate that day; a simple homemade fish stock cannot compete with one made professionally, from a large variety of freshly caught fish. Nor does a gas or electric stove distribute heat quite as evenly as an expertly managed wood fire under a paella pan. But this version will not disappoint you.

If you have a friendly fishmonger nearby, you may be able to buy good fish heads for the stock cheaply, plus bones of fish that have been filleted. Best of all are the heads and bones of turbot. Otherwise, make Fish Stock.

Use a paella pan if you have one, otherwise a casserole or large frying pan. You will need a lid big enough to cover the pan while the rice is ‘resting’ at the end. If you have no saffron, use turmeric in preference to any other colouring.

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Preparation: make the fish stock
Cooking: 25–30 minutes


  • 450 g/1 lb/2 cups short grain rice, ideally Spanish rice, such as Bomba or Calasparra, from the Valencia region; or Italian risotto rice
  • 1.1 litres/2 pints/5 cups fish stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6–8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp saffron powder or turmeric
  • 1–2 tsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
  • Salt to taste


In a paella pan, casserole or large frying pan, heat the oil and fry the crushed garlic, stirring all the time, for 1 minute. Add the powdered ingredients, briefly stir these, and pour in the fish stock. Let this simmer for a few minutes before adding the rice, a little at a time, over a period of about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the tomatoes and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, for 10–12 minutes. Adjust the seasoning and add the chopped parsley (if used). Stir again and level the surface of the rice gently with the back of the spoon. Turn off the heat and cover the pan; leave the rice to rest for 8–10 minutes. Serve hot, as described above.