From the Sea, Arroz a Banda
Updated: Jul 24
Arroz a banda is original from Alicante, and it's main ingredients are rice, fish and saffron. However, its genesis is much older. The Greeks had similar preparations made on a cauldron after learning how to use fire to cook the fish and acquiring saffron from the Middle East.
Such a concoction is even mentioned in Greek mythology in Hellas, when Aphrodite and Hephaestus got married. It was not a happy marriage, as Hephaestus was a jealous man, and Aphrodite was a free woman who gave her affections to whomever she wished. To gain some liberty at times, Aphrodite gave her husband a dish of saffron and fish, which had soporific effects so he would sleep heavily. Hmmm! not sure about that, but I can guarantee a nice siesta (nap) afterwards.
Back in Spain, the fishermen from Alicante had been mixing fish, garlic, olive oil, saffron and parsley in their cauldrons for ages. The broth that they made was called "caldero" which in the Spanish language means cauldron, taking its name from the container it which it was cooked. This means that arroz a banda is just a version of this as it is made on a paella pan.
The broth for arroz a banda is prepared with cheap and common fish (remember, this dish was originally developed by fishermen!) mainly any variety of small rock fish which have lots of fish bones but also lots of taste. As it happens the value of these fish was very low, so they constituted the fishermen's sustenance as any more pricey fish they sold in the market.
Arroz a banda is often served with alioli sauce which complements the flavours of the rice well.
Ingredients for two portions:
500 gr fish for stock (snapper head, conger eel, shellfish, fish bones - any variety of small rock fish with lots of taste.)
1 Bay leave
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of paprika
100 ml extra virgin olive oil,
2 cups of arboreo rice,
3 ripe medium-small tomatoes
Preparation: Saute the onion (chopped and peeled beforehand) with olive oil in a stewing pot until soft. Fill with water (1 litre pretty much). To this add all of the fish, the bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Bring the pot of water to the boil and then reduce the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the broth and set the fish to one side. There must be at least 4 cups of broth left. Mix the garlic with the salt and the toasted saffron. Dilute in a little broth. Put the paella dish on to the heat and add oil to it. When the pan is hot add the tomatoes, the garlic and saffron mix and stir until golden. Stir and let it simmer over a low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, and add the paprika followed by the rice and mix well to ensure that it soaks up the broth properly. The proportion is for 1 cup of rice, 2 cups of broth. Cook over a high heat for 5 minutes and then for a further 15 over a medium-low heat. Turn the hob off and let it stand for 5 minutes and serve.
Here's another reason to visit Spain and enjoy the pristine beaches and beautiful dishes of Alicante coastal towns!
Wishing you a magical week!