No Spanish dish is as international as the paella (pa-ye-ya). It is originally from a region called Valencia in Spain, where the Paella is usually made with meat: rabbit or duck. Seafood paella was made in the Spanish coast later, Paella de marisco . Now anywhere in the many tourist traps around Spain, you will get paella mixta (a combination) for 20 euros (ufff), usually made with leftover meat and fish.
An authentic paella needs some important things.
1. Paellera (pa-ye-yera) – Traditional iron pan, in which the paella is made and served.
2. Fire – In many Spanish homes, they have a gas burner, which are connected to a propane tank. This is because, the normal stove tops aren’t wide enough for the paellera.
3. Saffron – This is what gives the paella it’s nice golden color.
4. Rice – In Spain there is variety called Bomba which is widely used (brand I use is SOS) but I guess any medium grain white rice will do.
I bought myself a shiny new paellera, and wanted to try making a vegetarian paella. Spanish people will probably laugh at this, but I was sure it’ll be good. And it was! Also I didn’t have gas burner, just used a large burner on my vitroceramic. Here is my recipe.
Paella Vegetariana (serves 4-6)
Medium grain white rice – 2 cups
Onion – 1
Celery – 1 stalk (not normally used in a paella, but I like it)
Garlic – 5 cloves
Black peppercorns – 1 teaspoon
Vegetables – 2 cups (I used red peppers, yellow peppers, peas, carrots and cremini and white mushrooms)
Tomato puree – 2 – 3 tablespoons (I used crushed canned tomatoes)
Pimienton picante – 1/2 teaspoon (or paprika)
Saffron – a pinch
Stock – 4 – 6 cups (vegetable or chicken stock)
Olive oil – 3 – 4 tablespoons
Salt – to taste
1. Chop onions and celery fine.
2. Chop all the other vegetables into equal sized, medium dice.
3. In a mortar, combine garlic, peppercorns and a teaspoon of olive oil into a fine paste.
4. Heat the paellera (or the widest, flattest pan you own) and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom.
5. Add onions and celery and saute for 2 minutes, till the onions are translucent.
6. Add other vegetables and saute for a minute more.
7. Add the garlic paste and crushed tomatoes, and cook for a couple of more minutes.
8. Sprinkle pimienton, and salt. (add a bit more salt than you think it needs, because the rice soaks up the salt)
9. Add the stock and bring it to a boil, and let it simmer for 5 minutes to concentrate flavors. Add your precious pinch of saffron.
10. Add the rice in an even layer across the pan. Mix it well and let it cook for 15 – 20 minutes on a gentle simmer. Don’t stir. The thick, glossy layer of liquid (pelicula!) on top is important for the flavor.
11. Check the rice to see if its done, if not add a bit more liquid and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes.
12. Take it off heat, cover it with foil and let it sit for a few minutes. This is important for the rice to soak up any remaining liquid.
13. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges and serve as is in the paellera.
1. Saffron food coloring can be used if saffron is too expensive for you.
2. If you are using meat or chicken, brown the meat as step 1, and continue the rest of the steps.
3. Don’t stir too much, this isn’t risotto, we don’t want creamy.
4. You can easily halve this recipe, this makes quite a lot of rice! (I have leftovers!!).