Paella on the barbecue

Paella on the barbecue

Real Food by Mike
Alan Benson

Before you start, note that you can of course cook paella on a conventional stove top. I choose to use the barbecue because, traditionally, a paella is cooked over coals. A round kettle barbecue also has two flaps on either side of the grill to lift the pan higher, away from the heat, if you need to slow the cooking down. You can prop the pan up with a brick or similar, if you don’t have a kettle barbecue.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg green king prawns, peeled with the shell left on the tip of the tail, reserve the heads and shells
2 pinches saffron threads
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
50g french shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
20g garlic, crushed
1/2 bunch thyme, leaves picked
1/4 bunch rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pinch sea salt
400g calasparra rice
125ml white wine
250g tomato passata
500g mussels
500g broad beans, shelled
2 lemons, cut into wedges


  1. Fire up a round kettle barbecue with a full basket of coals.
  2. Put the prawn heads and shells in a saucepan of water over medium heat and simmer for 15 minutes to obtain a red stock. Strain the stock into a bowl through a sieve, add the saffron and top up with a little water to give you 1.25 litres. Set the stock aside but keep it hot.
  3. When the coals are glowing, put a paella pan (with a 32 cm/123/4 in base) on the grill over the coals and add the olive oil – the oil will get hot quickly as a paella pan is quite thin. Add the shallots, garlic, herbs and chicken and season with the sea salt. Stir to soften the shallots and lightly cook the chicken for about 5 minutes.
  4. Before you add the rice, rinse it until the water runs clear. Add the rice to the paella pan and stir for 30 seconds to coat the rice in oil, then add the wine and continue to stir for 2 minutes until the rice has absorbed the wine. Add the tomato passata and stir to coat the rice, then add the reserved hot prawn head stock. Bring to the boil and simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the mussels and broad beans and stir one last time.
  5. Lift the grill flaps up on the barbecue (if it has them) and suspend the paella high off the coals to maintain a slow simmer (or use a brick to prop up the pan). Don’t stir anymore as a light caramelised crust will begin to form under the rice when cooked, called a socarrat, and this is a highly prized element of the dish.
  6. After 5 minutes place the prawns on top to steam gently from the heat of the rice. Make sure to turn them after 5 minutes.
  7. Soon the rice will have absorbed most of the stock and little steam vents will form. Taste the rice on top to see if it is cooked. Like risotto, it should be al dente, but it won’t be creamy in texture as it isn’t stirred. When you are satisfied, lift the pan off the barbecue and place it on the table with a tea towel (dish towel) over it and rest it for 15 minutes. (This is the perfect time to have a sherry!)
  8. Remove the tea towel and divide the paella among serving plates, scraping some of the trophy socarrat crust into each portion. Serve with the lemon wedges for squeezing.


  • Calasparra is an ancient rice strain from the region of Murcia in southeastern Spain. Calasparra has a short, round grain that can absorb 30 per cent more liquid than ordinary rice. Also look for bomba, another Spanish rice variety perfect for paella.

Medicinal Benefit

  • There are many healthy ingredients in this paella, but let’s focus on the rice. There’s no question that brown rice is healthier for you, but using carefully sourced organic white rice, such as calasparra or bomba, has benefits. Because rice is low in sodium, it’s a fantastic food for those suffering from high blood pressure. Rice is also rich in carbohydrates, which are the body’s main source of energy. And, it’s a good source of vitamin B3 (also called niacin and helpful for regulating cholesterol), vitamin D (important for maintaining normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, which strengthen and build bone) and vitamins B1 and B2 (to convert food to energy as well as help maintain healthy hair, skin, muscles and brain).
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