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vegetarian paella

I really should invest in a proper paella pan because I love to make paella. It’s not too complicated to prepare and fun to cook in the way one-pot dinners are fun (yeah, that’s right, fun). No last minute rushing around to plate everything at the same time or brown butter or whisk a sauce. As long as all the prep work has been done in advance, this is just a matter of assembly and setting a timer. Fun!

Bonuses: hearty and warming, will feed a crowd, does not have to be eaten instantly or Christmas will be ruined, great for kids of all ages. If your kids don’t like something (such as tofu or green olives), they can pick it out of the rice while you sigh in frustration. Oh and did I say this is a one-pot veggie-packed dinner yet?

So my recipe may sound a bit odd at first with the kombu and shiitake mushroom thing but they add so much flavor to the vegetable stock and the end product is richly delicious–even without shellfish or chicken. Ha! I almost think it’s a stroke of genius on my part as the slimy shiitakes are mussel-like and the dried kelp adds a salty fishy umami you might otherwise get from shrimp.

Of course, this recipe from La Tienda creates a perfectly fine vegetarian paella too.
The most important thing for paella is to cook the rice properly. It is finished by steaming the rice in the rich vegetable broth. Eat this its own, with salad, or as part of a tapas meal with Spanish tortilla, roasted peppers, pan con tomate, nuts, cheese and white bean salad… you get the idea.

Vegetarian paella
Serves 6-8
adapted from La Tienda

olive oil
3 1/4 cups water with 2 veggie bouillon cubes
1 cup arborio rice and 1/2 cup brown rice (or 1 1/2 cups bomba rice)
1 palm-size piece of kombu (dried kelp)
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
1 white or yellow onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
4-5 tomatoes quartered or 200g tinned tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, chopped
2 small potatoes, peeled and chopped (optional)
1 can artichoke hearts, halved
1/2 block pressed tofu, cubed (optional)
1/3 cup peas
pinch of saffron threads
1 tsp paprika
Spanish green olives
parsley or chives and lemon wedges to serve

1) First prepare the stock. Bring the water to boil, then turn off heat and add in dried shitakes and kombu. Cover and let sit at least 30 minutes. Take out the kombu and reserve for something else or toss. Strain the shiitakes, chop them and set aside. Prepare all the vegetables while the stock is soaking.
2) Use a large, wide, heavy-bottomed pan with a lid. Cover the bottom of the pan with good Spanish olive oil (about 4 glugs) and heat. Add in the chopped garlic, onion, bell peppers and celery. Sautee on med-low heat about 15 minutes.
3) Add in the rest of the vegetables (except the olives), rice and spices and gently cook a couple more minutes. I like to add potato when I am eating with the kids as they are tater fans. Leave it out if you like.
4) Add in the stock, tofu, shitake mushrooms from the stock and olives. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for about 10 or 15 minutes.
5) Preheat the oven to about 350F. Cover the top of the pan with tinfoil and then put on the lid. Press down tightly to air seal.
6) Put the pan in the oven for another 15 minutes until the rice is cooked and the stock has been absorbed. Arborio risotto rice takes a while to cook so taste it and see. If it is still a little crunchy, reseal and put back in the oven. The paella should not be soupy. All the stock should be absorbed and the rice should be tender and moist.

Top with parsley and pass around lemon wedges to squeeze over the paella.


vegetarian paella

vegetarian paella