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That’s not rice and bits; that’s a wood fired paella

We love paella – it really reminds us of our trips to the Alpujarras in southern Spain where we’ll undoubtedly cook it outdoors in the olive groves over fire with the group we’ve taken.

One of the many things we love about our foodie trips to Spain is the sheer bounty in a pan of freshly made paella gently cooked over an open fire in the olive groves: tender rice full of flavour from wine and stock with slow cooked peppers and onions, tender meat and fish and punchy herbs to finish the dish. Paella has an image of being lots of seafood but that ain’t necessarily so – in the Alpujarran hills where we go they use rabbit (fresh – from the man down the road) and chicken, lots of veggies and herbs that you’ve gathered and a pinch of precious saffron. Nothing is critical apart from the rice obviously – everything else can be a bit of this and a bit of that; a bit meagre for everyday eating maybe, and full of goodies on feast days.

If you haven’t got a wood fired oven (yet!), don’t worry – you can cook the paella on the hob.

Not just rice and bits

Wood Fired Paella

3tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and very finely chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded, deveined and very finely chopped

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Good pinch saffron soaked in 2tbsp boiling water for 10 minutes

300g risotto or paella rice

2tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1tsp sweet smoked paprika

1 glass dry white wine – about 150ml

800ml chicken or fish stock

450g fish fillet (net weight) – boned, skinned and cut into 3cm chunks – we used monkfish as it holds together well

1 medium squid, cleaned and cut into thin strips

12 raw king prawns, shell on

Lemon wedges

Salt and pepper


Heat – Mississippi 2-3 with a fire burning (this means if you can hold your hand in the oven for about 2 seconds it’s the right temperature to cook)

Door of the wood fired oven should be off


  1. Heat a large wide paella pan in the oven and when it’s hot, add the oil.
  2. Add the onion and pepper and season well. Cook the veggies in the oven for 2-3 minutes until they are starting to soften.
  3. Stir in the garlic, saffron and its soaking water, smoked paprika, rice and parsley. Season well and pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Reduce the wine until there’s almost nothing left and then add enough stock to cover the rice by 1cm.
  4. Put the pan back in the oven and cook uncovered until the rice is tender and the stock has all been absorbed. Add some more stock if the first lot has been absorbed but the rice isn’t quite ready.
  5. Put the fish, squid and prawns on top of the rice; cook for 4-5 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the prawns have turned pink. The flames should be burning round the top of the wood fired oven so that the fish is grilled slightly from above and the finished paella will taste slightly smoky – delicious!
    Grill them prawns

    Keep the flames coming over the pan to add flavour and colour

    keep grilling

    The fish and seafood are added once the rice is almost ready

  6. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve at once with some green salad and good bread.

    Just one morsel

    Rex is ever hopeful!