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My two eldest boys challenged me to start a cooking blog with simple recipes that we can cook together - and my youngest one has now joined in. I am hoping they pick up some cooking and photograph skills... or that at least they learn to design and run a blog.


ARROZ A BANDA

This is very similar to a paella, but without any of the paella distractions: no need to peel prawns,  open mussels, suck bones, clams or anything like that.  It is typical from the area of Alicante, where I spent most of the summer holidays during my childhood. The chef that cooks this best in Spain is Maria Jose San Roman from the wonderful restaurant Monastrell in Alicante. This recipe is slightly adapted from one of hers. If you are into cooking rice watch her videos in You Tube - she is not only a superb chef but also a great defender of cooking simply and focussing on the a quality of products, which I totally agree with.

You need: 
- 2 large tomatos
- half and onion
- half a red pepper
- 2 ñoras - or alternatively a teaspoon of sweet paprika
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 7 prawns
- 300 g squid 
- around 400 g 'bomba' rice, ideally Calasparra
- salt
- fumet: made with fish bones (a couple of bones of flat fish) and a litre of water. You can get a huge amount of fish bones for very little money - indeed most fishmongers would normally give it to you for free) 
- saffron 
- olive oil

Start by preparing the 'fumet' (which I normally prepare well in advance and freeze): roast the fishbones, a tomato cut into quarters and two cloves of garlic with a couple of table spoons of olive oil at 250 degrees. It takes around 40 minutes untilt he fish bones are brown with black edges. Put it all in a big pan with two litres of water and boil for 2 hours (or just 20 minutes in you do this with a express cooker) 

Separately, fry the ñoras and remaining clove of garlic with a tablespoon of oil, blend it and reserve it. If you are not using ñoras just grate the garlic and mix it with the tablespoon of paprika.

Fry the tomato (no need to add oil) in a small pan until it gets mushy, almost liquid.

Finally fry the onions and peppers (both cut into small cubes) over very low heat with a table spoon of olive oil for 18-10 minutes until the peppers are soft and the onions translucent.

Up to this point you can prepare it all well in advance or even the previous day.

45 minutes before you are going to eat, boil a little bit of water (half a glass), add the saffron and let it infuse. 
Cut the squid and prawns into small pieces. Take a paella pan, fry the prawns until they get pink with a tablespoon of oil (one or two minutes) take them out and reserve. In the same oil fry the squid for 3-4 minutes, then add the rice (a handful per person) a tablespoon of the ñora or paprika mixture, three tablespoons of the tomato pure and three to hour tablespoons of the onion and peppers mixture. Stir it for a minute or so, then add the saffron liquid (put it through a colander to get rid of  the saffron stems). Finally add the fumet (for each volume or rice, three times the volume of fumet).

Let it bubble over high heat for 8 minutes. Then lower the heat and wait for another 8 minutes. Finally (and take note because this is a secret trick) add a tiny drizzle of oil all around the edge of the pan and increase the heat for 3 minutes. This is to create what is called 'socarrat', the burn bit at the bottom of the paella, which is something that every Spaniard would fight for at the table.

The key to any Spanish rice dish is not to overcomplicate it with too many ingredients. And to be really precise about timing. As soon as the rice is done you need to eat it immediately or it will become 'pasado' (mushy)... yuck...