Serves: 6-8
Keeps: 2 days in the fridge
Do not freeze
Per serving: 380 cals, 40 g carbs

Our Valencia-style version uses spelt, a deliciously nutty, creamy biblical grain that’s higher in protein and fibre than the traditional short-grain white rice. You don't need a special pan to make paella – a very wide shallow frying pan, ideally 31-38 cm (12-15”) will do just fine. For a vegan version, use a handful of chestnut mushrooms and a small jar of marinated artichoke hearts instead of chicken.


350 g (12 oz) pearled spelt or pearl barley
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) boneless chicken thighs
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 roasted peppers, about ½ a jar
1 whole head of garlic

For the sofrito
3 cloves garlic
1 large onion
2 tsp paprika
4 tbsp tinned chopped tomatoes
½ -1 tsp fine sea salt
pinch of cayenne
good pinch (8-10 threads) saffron
1 litre (1 ¾ pints) strong chicken or vegetable stock

To finish
100 ml (3 fl oz) dry white wine or stock
10 grinds black pepper
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
3 tbsp frozen peas or petits pois
handful each of baby tomatoes,
lightly cooked haricots verts or green beans, and edamame or broad beans
lemon wedges and flat-leaf
parsley to serve

Cover the spelt or barley with boiling water and leave to soak. Trim 1 cm (½ inch) off the top of the head of garlic to expose the cloves, then remove any loose papery skin.

Cut the chicken thighs into quarters, or in half if you prefer larger pieces. Heat the oil in your pan and when hot add the chicken. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and black pepper, then add the head of garlic, cut side down. Cook over brisk heat for 4-5 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown on both sides and cooked through with no sign of pink in the centre. Transfer to a dish with tongs or a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan. Refrigerate if not serving the paella within an hour.

To make the sofrito, halve, peel and chop the onions as finely as you can. Add to the pan, cover and cook gently for 10 minutes until soft and golden, stirring occasionally. Peel the 3 garlic cloves, crush them in a press and add to the onions along with the tinned tomatoes. Cook, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes, then stir in the paprika, cayenne and saffron and fry gently for a minute or two until fragrant.

Drain the spelt or barley and add to the pan with three-quarters of the stock. Nestle the head of garlic, cut side up, in the centre. Simmer, covered, 25-30 minutes until the spelt is tender but slightly chewy (barley will need about 45 minutes). The paella can be prepared up to this point and left at room temperature, covered, for up to an hour.

Add the wine, remaining stock, black pepper and nutmeg then bubble briskly, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 5-10 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time. Nestle the chicken, peppers, cherry tomatoes and your other toppings into the spelt, then cover and cook on the lowest possible heat for 5-10 minutes for the flavours to mingle and the chicken and toppings to heat through. Uncover, and check the seasonings, then add the lemon wedges and parsley and serve with a crisp green salad.

JUDI’S TIPS: if you want soccarat – a crispy layer on the bottom – be sure to shake but not stir during the last 10-15 minutes. For a gluten-free version, use paella or risotto rice instead of spelt.


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The recipes are extracted from Judi’s new book, To Life! Healthy Jewish Food which is available to BUY NOW from YouCaxton Publications.

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