Happy weekend, guys! Mine is going to be a busy one. On Saturday, I am attending my third day-long pottery workshop, which I am super stoked about. I am looking forward to honing my skills and also picking up the bowls I made last time. I cannot wait to see what they will look like once fired and glazed. After the workshop, I am hopping out of my clay-stained clothes and into something more presentable as we are going to a restaurant with Duncan’s family, to celebrate Duncan’s niece turning 21. Sunday will be spent doing chores of various descriptions and running so I won’t bore you with details, but you get the gist – a mixture of fun stuff and less so is on the agenda.
We are not planning on any entertaining this weekend, but if you are I recommend that you try this vegan paella on your guests! Despite its pretty elaborate and somewhat luxurious appearance, it is actually deceptively simple to make. It’s all about learning to cook the rice to perfection using visual cues alone. If you have a paella pan, dust it off and you are set, but if you don’t, just use a regular pan. I actually tried to get myself a paella dish, but I could not find anything suitable. I found one that was way too big for my needs and another that was coated in teflon, which I did not like, so I resorted to using my regular, stainless steel pan and it worked just fine. A pan with a tight fitting lid would be even better here as resting the rice at the end of the cooking time is key.
Once you’ve got your pan covered, make sure you have the correct type of rice to hand. If paella rice (there are quite a few varieties: senia, bomba or bahfa) isn’t available, most short-grain rice varieties will do. I used the widely available risotto rice (arborio) as I had a big bag of it that needed using up and it worked beautifully. The key thing with paella is judging the correct liquid to rice ratio and just the right cooking time, so please make sure you measure all three. I found that 200 g of rice needs approximately 2½ cups (600 ml) liquid in total to be cooked just right.
I went a bit batsh*t crazy (love the term) with my paella and topped it with all the veggies under the sun as I wanted it to look colourful, summery and festive, but you can totally be more restrained, especially if you are not in the habit of buying surplus vegetables just because they look good. I am totally guilty of that – I always get home hauling way more produce than what I set out to buy or what the two of us can physically eat and then I get really stressed that stuff will go to waste. It sucks to be me sometimes.
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 10 cm / 4″ by 20 cm / 8″ piece of kombu
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery stick
- 1 vegan stock cube (optional, but I like to add it)
- fennel offcuts (optional)
- parsley offcuts
- 1 vegan stock cube (if not using homemade stock)
- 30 ml / 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 200 g / 7 oz ripe tomato (1 large), peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp salt, more to taste
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 80 ml / 1/3 cup vegan white wine
- 1 Romano pepper, sliced
- 200 g / 7 oz / 1 slightly heaped cup paella/bomba rice (arborio does good enough job too)
- a generous pinch of saffron, dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
- freshly ground black pepper, to serve
- 200 g / 7 oz zucchini / courgette, sliced
- 1 fennel, cut into 8 wedges
- 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup cooked peas or broad beans (or a mixture of both)
- 8 olives, sliced
- 4 charred artichoke heart halves, halved
- chopped fresh parsley, to garnish (optional)
- If making your own stock, place all the ingredients in a pot with about 750 ml water. Cover and simmer gently for about 45 minutes and set aside. Alternatively, dissolve a vegan stock cube in 500 ml / 2 cups of water instead.
- Heat up 2 tsp oil in a paella pan or another (preferably thin-bottomed) pan. Gently fry the onion for about 5 minutes until softened.
- Add garlic and fry off until softened and fragrant, stirring the whole time.
- Add chopped tomato, salt, smoked paprika, wine, and red pepper.
- Allow the tomatoes to break down and the red pepper to soften, it will take about 10 minutes.
- While the paella is simmering, char courgette slices, fennel wedges and cherry tomatoes on a heated and lightly oiled grilling pan. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do that in batches. Season and set aside.
- Mix the rice into the tomato and red pepper mixture.
- Add saffron, saffron water and 500 ml / 2 cups of stock and simmer on a medium heat without stirring for 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice . If the rice looks dry when 10 minutes is up, top it up with a bit more stock / water so that there is a thin layer of moisture on top of the rice.
- Switch the heat off and cover the paella dish with a tight fitting lid or a piece of kitchen foil and allow the rice to rest for 10-15 minutes. It will finish cooking in its own steam.
- Top with a selection of charred veggies, peas or broad beans, olives, artichokes and chopped parsley. Serve with lemon wedges and a good grind of black pepper.