Vegan Paella

Spaniards, and my dad, will be greatly incensed by the title and contents of this recipe. YES, it’s vegan! I’m not using the chicken, sausage or seafood that usually accompany a paella. You can use those ingredients (I sometimes do, depending on who’s coming to dinner) but I rarely eat meat anymore and find that you can still make a delicious paella without it. For the rest of the recipe, I follow my dad’s instructions as he has perfected his paella recipe over the years.

Before we get to the recipe, here are some notes on key ingredients that I use:

First, as a meat replacement, I use a large, white bean called Gigantes, common in Greece. In Germany, they are called Weiße Riesenbohnen. I can find them dried or canned at the grocery stores in my neighborhood. In the US it might be easier to use butter beans/lima beans. Pro tip: I find that canned Gigantes beans tend to generate more flatulence than dried beans. Since this is a meal I make on special occasions, and I’m usually planning ahead for those, I soak the beans overnight before boiling them and proceeding with this recipe. You can also cut out those steps by just using a can of beans instead, but you have been warned!

Second, I use “Paellero” seasoning instead of saffron. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world; it is extremely labor-intensive to produce. Saffron is the dried stigma of a flower, the female part, so to speak. Each little stigma has to be carefully plucked by hand and in order to make 1 pound of saffron something like 170,000 flowers need to be processed! So I use this affordable little spice mix instead. You can find it at specialty Latin and Spanish stores or online.

Third, I like to use arborio rice, the rice that’s usually used for risotto (sorry dad! I’m straying from your recipe again!). There is a special Spanish rice used for paella and my dad uses a particular brand found in the US, but it’s hard to find either of those where I live. Plus, I always have arborio rice in my pantry because I often make risotto. Stay tuned for that recipe! I just rinse the dried arborio rice well to make sure the final dish is not too sticky.

Vegan Paella

Serves 4 to 5 people.

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced as evenly as possible into little disks
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large, red bell pepper, cut in half (chop half and thinly slice the other half in strips)
  • 1 small broccoli, cut into florets
  • ¾ cup of peas, thawed
  • 1 can (400 gr) of large white beans, drained and well-rinsed or about 2 cups cooked
  • 1 cup (200 gr) of arborio rice, well-rinsed
  • 3 cups (500 ml) of broth
  • 1 envelope of “Paellero” seasoning mix
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Steps

  1. Prepare all of your vegetables. This takes time and is best done with a helper!
  2. Season the pan by adding 3 spoonsful of olive oil and sautée the sliced garlic over medium heat until aromatic (do not let the garlic get brown). Remove garlic and set aside.
  3. Add the chopped onion, carrot, and the red bell pepper and sautée until onions are cooked.
  4. Add the 2 cups of hot broth and mix well. Make sure that the whole pan is bubbling hot.
  5. Add the “Paellero” seasoning mix.
  6. Add the rice and beans, distributing them evenly around the whole pan.
  7. Lower the fire to simmer and set a timer for 15 minutes. Cook uncovered.
  8. When time elapses add the sauteed garlic, then the broccoli and lastly the red bell pepper slices. Arrange them radially to look pretty. Pour the peas into all of the little nooks and crannies left in the pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top.
  9. Let cook an additional 10 to 15 minutes and check the rice to see if it is done.
  10. Turn off the fire, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

NOTES:

  • Use the largest skillet you have for this recipe. Paella is generally cooked uncovered in a very wide, low saucepan.
  • The best paella has a thin layer of caramelized rice on the bottom. Watch the stove to make sure it’s not too hot though or the rice on the bottom will burn!

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