Being from the south of Spain, on of my all-time favourite recipes is paella. I’ve been making this vegan version non-stop for a couple of years and it is simple and delicious! Normally a paella pan is used, but any large flat pan will work just fine.
For 2 people (2-4 servings):
- 1 small/medium red bell pepper.
- 250g of flat green beans.
- 2-3 cloves of garlic.
- 1/2 can of canned tomatoes.
- 1/2 lemon.
- 1/2 aubergine.
- 1.5cups of short grain rice. Traditionally one would use “bomba rice”, but since it is not so easy to find outside of Spain, any short grain or risotto rice would work. You may need to try different types until you find one you like!
- Smoked paprika.
- Saffron, but can be substituted by turmeric, since it is normally cheaper and easier to obtain.
- Salt, pepper, water and olive oil.
- Dice the flat green beans, bell pepper and aubergine to the preferred size.
- Put a generous amount of olive oil into a big flat pan and bring to heat.
- Start frying the pepper with a pinch of salt on medium-high heat.
- When the pepper starts to get some color, add the flat green beans.
- Once the pepper and beans start to get golden, add the aubergine. Beware that it will probably suck all the remaining olive oil, so keep stirring and add more if necessary.
- After around 5-10 minutes all the veggies should be golden but not burnt. Add the sliced cloves of garlic and keep stirring to avoid burning it.
- When the garlic is fragrant, add the canned tomatoes and cook for 5-10 more minutes until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Add water in a 3:1 proportion with the rice. In this case we are using 1.5 cups of rice, so we will be adding 4.5 cups of water. It may look like a lot, but using a flat pan the water will evaporate quickly.
- Once the water is boiling, reduce the temperature and shimmer. Add the smoked paprika, saffron/turmeric and salt and pepper to taste. Keep trying the soup until it is nice and flavorful.
- Once the soup is ready, add the rice evenly around the pan, making sure all the grains are submerged.
- At this point you don’t want to stir the pan anymore. We want to avoid the rice becoming starchy. Cook until the rice is done, but keeping a bit of a bite.
- One of the secrets of a good paella is to get the bottom part of the rice a little bit burnt (also known as “socarrat”), which will add some caramelization and an extra layer of flavor to your dish. Getting the right amount of socarrat will take some practice and don’t panic if you smell the burnt too early. Too much, and you will be eating burnt rice, too little and you will not getting the full experience. If the rice is almost done (al dente) by the time you have to take it out of the fire, you can cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 5 more minutes or so.
- Once ready, make sure to scrap the bottom before serving to give a bit of socarrat on all portions. Serve with a slice of lemon for extra flavour.