Sort-of paella, 67p

Sort-of-Paella, from A Girl Called Jack, photographed by Susan Bell.

Sort-of-Paella, from A Girl Called Jack, photographed by Susan Bell.

The star of the show in this paella is the simple coloured rice, cooked al dente, accentuated with bright red tomatoes and little green peas. This recipe is delicious on its own, or can be used as a base. Feel free to add chopped peppers, seasonal vegetables, any meat or fish of your choice, a glass of white wine, a splash of sherry – whatever your budget or your cupboard will allow. But for me, nothing beats a fistful of tiny little prawns, half a cup of peas and a spoon to eat it with.

Traditional paella uses saffron strands to colour the rice, but I use bright yellow turmeric powder instead. This is a fraction of the cost and much more versatile, as it can be used in Saag Aloo, Spiced Potato Soup and many, many curry recipes besides. Traditional paella also uses a fat short-grain rice, but I use the ordinary long-grain store cupboard stuff because it’s what I have to hand. And a rice is a rice is a rice, as far as I’m concerned.

Serves 2 at 67p each*

2 tablespoons oil, 4p
1 onion (around 180g), 10p
2 cloves of garlic, 4p
500ml chicken or vegetable stock, 3p
a scant 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 3p
200g tinned chopped tomatoes, 18p
150g rice, 7p
1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs, 1p
70g fresh or frozen peas or green beans, cut into lengths, 8pea (couldn’t resist!)
100g fresh or frozen cooked prawns, 77p

Heat the oil in a medium frying pan or sauté pan. Peel and finely slice the onion, peel and finely chop or crush the garlic, and put both into the pan to soften for a few minutes on a medium heat. Take care not to brown them, as the slightly burnt taste will permeate through the whole dish.
Meanwhile bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a separate small saucepan and shake in the turmeric.
Add the chopped tomatoes and the rice to the frying pan with the onion and garlic and stir.
Chop the thyme, add to the pan and stir again briefly to combine. Pour a cup of the hot stock into the pan, then stir well to stop the rice from sticking.
When the stock has been absorbed by the rice, add another cup. Repeat until all the stock is used up, or the rice is soft. unlike risotto, you do not need to stir paella constantly, but a little stir every now and again is helpful to stop the rice from sticking to the pan.
When the rice is almost cooked, add the frozen peas or beans and the cooked prawns, stir and cook for 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the prawns are warmed through.

Remove from the heat and leave to stand for a few minutes before serving, to allow the flavours to settle. Traditionally you’d drizzle a little extra oil over the top, to serve. And maybe a pinch of salt.

‘Sort-Of Paella’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe, available to buy from lots of lovely places but my fave is Hive, supporting local independent bookshops. The lovely photo is by Susan Bell.

I calculated the costs based on my most recent Sainsburys shop, but most other supermarkets and local shops sell rice and onions and stuff like that, at similar prices. If you find anything at a Super Bargainous Price, comment below and let us all know!

Sunflower oil £4/3l. Basics onions 80p/1.5kg. Basics garlic 35p/2 bulbs. Basics chicken stock cubes 25p/10. Turmeric £1/42g. Basics chopped tomatoes 35p/400g. Basics rice 45p/1kg. Basics mixed dried herbs, 40p/14g. Basics frozen peas £1.40/1.2kg. Basics frozen prawns, £2.30/300g.

On Twitter and Instagram @MsJackMonroe


  1. Thank you so much for posting a simple & quite easy paella dish. (Had paella in Barcelona & was told by locals it’s very hard to cook).

    Can not wait to try it out.

  2. This is fab, I must be the only person who ‘cooks’ who doesn’t like saffron, never thought of turmeric !!! I’ll be making this soon x

  3. Thank you Jack… I think you are an utter genius at food alchemy: making the everyday foods we have in our cupboards into little masterpieces! I am on a limited budget for the next fortnight (in truth it will be £0 I have/don’t have available for food) but thankfully I keep a well stocked larder so will be turning to your trusty recipe books everyday…X

  4. Jack, you are a woman after my own heart. Love your recipes, love what you have done with your life. Hats off to you.

  5. Saffron (for those who like it) is usually horribly expensive – but so are supermarket spices, where you pay for the jar every time.
    I found packets of saffron threads available quite cheaply at the invaluable local Turkish Food Centre, a small chain which now has a number of branches in London – so do try any local ethnic groceries for this and other less common spices.
    (I’m now using the last whole nutmeg from a cardboard packetful that I bought in Amman, many years ago – and they’re still effective, too.)

  6. You are amazing, you put a smile on my face, you make me aware, you inspire me; so grateful hahaha big creative hug from Westerlo Belgium Frank:)))

  7. If you don’t care for prawns or are veggie you can use white beans or broad beans or chickpeas from a can which are about 39p-69p per 400g tin.

  8. I’ll probably make this tomorrow – looks good. I’m confused though. The dried herbs turn into fresh thyme and then back to dried herbs again. Which do you recommend?
    PS: Do you need a proofreader? I could do with a job!

    • If you don’t mind me meddling. Thyme or herbs are optional in paella. Paellas should include paprika though. (Sweet paprika – not spicy, smoked, or hot). I have nothing against herbs but paprika is such a quintessential ingredient of Spanish food. It makes a difference. But I understand people aren’t going to buy a whole bottle just to use it once.

  9. Just want to say thank you Jack.
    I’m a 74 year old typical useless bloke in the kitchen but I’ve just made this “paella” and it was absolutely delicious.
    I live on my own so I’ve got lots left.
    Hoping it keeps for a couple of days.
    Once again, thank you.

  10. Thank you for this fab recipe. I’ve used it for a young person in care that I teach. She’ll be living independently soon and will need to live on a tight budget. Thank fully she’s an excellent cook.

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