I was asked by my dear brother in-law some time back if there is such a thing as a vegetarian paella and I said yes just replace the meat or fish with vegetables. I had never made it before but always enjoyed the passionate description given by TV chefs when they make or try paella. Every time I would say to myself I should make it but never did venture out to try and find a recipe or recreate a traditional paella with just vegetables.
So as he was coming around for dinner one day I thought let me try making it. I looked at various different traditional recipes. Some had just seafood and others with game and seafood mixed together. Certain things that came out of my research were that there is usually wine, saffron, and specific types of rice used. However the method changes per region and family recipe, much like the Indian biryani or the Creole rice dish jambalaya, which I make often. So I started thinking of the vegetables that I could use, or that would have similar colours to a seafood paella – orange, black, green, red etc. It turned out to be a tasty dish which we all enjoyed.
I used long grain rice instead of paella or arborio rice, the texture was very good and it gave an extra depth to the dish. Maybe next time I will use brown rice which should give it a more nuttier flavour and a nice texture compare to the usual basmati, which would not hold its shape in the cooking. Next time I will also add some chillies to give it a slightly more spicier kick (we found this to be too bland for our taste), and perhaps try different vegetables also.
Preparation time: 15 mins Cooking time: 30 mins Serves: 4
2 cups long grain rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 litre of hot water
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tsp turmeric (hardar) powder
1 pinch of saffron (kesar)
2 onions diced
1 leek sliced
1 small aubergine cut into cubes
1 courgette (zucchini) cut into semi circles
1 of each red & yellow capsicum (bell peppers) cubed
5 to 6 button mushroom quartered
1) Wash and soak the rice in some hot water, while you prepare the vegetables. Chop into fairly large chunks and boil the water.
2) Pre heat a large sauce pan or wok on medium temperature. Drain the rice, add the oil to the pan and all the ingredients and sauté for a few minutes, you will see a shine on the rice. Pour the hot water and cover and cook for 15 minutes. Mix and check to see if the rice is done, add more water if necessary and cook until all the water has evaporated. You are ready to serve with some lemon wedges.