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Paella Valenciana

This is Paella, but not as we know it.

When Jamie Oliver shared a Paella recipe on Twitter back in 2016, an International event later known as ‘Paellagate’ was sparked. All due to the (some might say delightfully creative) inclusion of the salty and spicy Spanish sausage, chorizo. Paella is a traditional rice dish served all over Spain but originates from Valencia, and is a dish that typically includes chicken, rabbit, meat, fish, shellfish and vegetables - and definitely not chorizo.

Some people were quick to suggest the Jamie Oliver dish was no longer worthy of the name Paella and instead should be called “rice with stuff”. Others became enraged, that this dish taking the name Paella was a direct insult to their Spanish cultural pride. In the following weeks, Oliver received what can only be described as a deluge of cyber abuse, including death threats, from patriotic Spaniards who were vehemently outraged at the suggestion to add some tasty sausage to this ubiquitous rice dish along with his cooking method, which involved stirring the rice as it cooks - a big no-no when making ‘real’ Paellas.

Some reactions were funnier than others. One Tweet was pretty clear in its depth of offense at this recipe:

Me cago en tus ancestros. https://t.co/cmjIt19xTf
— Arezno (@Arezno) 4 de octubre de 2016

Literally translated as ‘I shit on your ancestors’, this dish was widely considered an act of terrorism.

Since 2015, I have been making my home in Spain. I love Spain, Spanish food and I love a Spanish man. I also love living a compassionate life and eating healthy food. So, you can understand my underlying fear of making a plant-based paella recipe leaving out 50% of the traditional ingredients and trying to pass it off as Paella and not ‘rice with stuff’.

Now, while I do not have the visibility of Jamie Oliver, nor the influence, I am possibly risking my own life by calling this dish a Paella, to my Spanish family and friends (and you, you Wonderland human). The following recipe is a vegan version, created without a hint of seafood or native blood, but here goes. This is the easiest, most authentic tasting paella you can achieve without using seafood, I can promise you that.

The key to a good Paella is sofrito and over indulgent amounts of saffron

The key is a good rich sofrito, the base for anointing the rice before you add any liquid flavour, and, plenty of saffron, to get that unmistakably authentic earthy edge. You can crush the saffron threads and add to the rice with the stock, but I like their pretty threads decorating the dish, so I add them whole into the stock to soften up before stirring it all in. If you want a richer, meatier stock add a few dried mushrooms or a spoon of miso to the stock, likewise throw a few mushrooms in with the sofrito at the start. In this dish, I like the lightness of spring vegetables and butter beans for texture and creaminess.

Side note to #Vanlifers: This dish requires three rings to cook on, although you could grill the vegetables on a barbecue or in the pan before you start the paella if you only have two rings. I make this most weekends for a treat, it’s always a fun dish to make to celebrate something, even if it just happens to be life itself.

Makes enough for 2 people using a medium sized frypan or Paellera (the traditional paella pan with handles on both sides). Scroll down for the recipe and a few pictures to guide you through the steps.

I make big batches of sofrito to let the flavours develop in the fridge for future Paellas.

I make big batches of sofrito to let the flavours develop in the fridge for future Paellas.

Vibrant vegetable Paella, ready to eat

Vibrant vegetable Paella, ready to eat

A real Paella is only stirred up at the end, just before serving, thus creating delicious sticky bits on the bottom of the pan called  soccarat.

A real Paella is only stirred up at the end, just before serving, thus creating delicious sticky bits on the bottom of the pan called soccarat.

The secret is to not overcook, your vegetables. Crunchiness is king.

The secret is to not overcook, your vegetables. Crunchiness is king.

Paella Valenciana, minus the death threats (hopefully!)

Paella Valenciana, minus the death threats (hopefully!)

Paella Valenciana

Ingredients: for 2 people 

  • 1 cup (250 g) Bomba rice (a short grain, round, white rice)

  • 2 shallots or a small onion, diced finely 

  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 ripe tomato, diced

  • 1 roasted red pepper or 3-4 pieces from a jar, skin removed

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 1 generous pinch of saffron threads per person 

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • 500ml vegetable stock

  • ½ cup green baby peas

  • ½ jar (200 g) cooked giant Butter (Lima) beans

  • ½ bunch asparagus spears chopped in half, ends removed

  • 1 cup small cauliflower florets

  • sea salt and fresh pepper, to taste

  • lemon wedges and fresh parsley, to serve

Instructions:

  1. Grill the vegetables (except the peas) in a dry skillet before you start. Just blacken them slightly or use a barbecue or grill them in the oven. Once cooked halfway or so, set aside on a plate.

  2. Warm some oil in a wide and shallow frypan or paellera and then gently fry the shallots until soft, add garlic, tomato and ½ the peppers, fry for a few more minutes and then add sweet and smoked paprika and a little pinch of salt, reduce any liquid in the pan until this pasty mix (sofrito) is glazed and thickened.

  3. On a high flame, heat the stock in a small saucepan and when almost boiled add saffron and reduce to lowest flame.

  4. Add rice to sofrito pan and stir around until it looks shiny, coated in sauce and starting to go transparent.

  5. Pour over stock and jiggle the pan to settle the rice at an even level, do not stir it! Raise heat to medium until everything starts to bubble and then reduce heat to low.

  6. Now I cover the pan with a sheet of tin foil or a lid and let it do it’s magic, lifting the lid periodically to add the beans and vegetables in order of cooking time needed.

  7. In total, it should be about 20 minutes until the rice is soft and fat. First place the Lima beans around the widest part of the pan after about 5 minutes of cooking time has elapsed. Then halfway, around 10 minutes, I add cauliflower and the rest of the peppers, and then I put asparagus and peas in with 5 minutes to go. This will depend on the rice you use, the pan, the heat and quantity you make.

  8. In general it's ready if the rice has absorbed all the liquid, the rice is no longer crunchy and the edges are getting a little crispy but not burned. If the rice is still al dente add a little more water or stock, one tablespoonful at a time to avoid over cooking the rice. If it's still soupy, turn it off and cover and leave for 10 minutes to absorb the soupy stock. This dish is quite forgiving so don’t panic, just adjust as you cook and don't get distracted and let it burn!

  9. When it is ready, it will start to look dried on the edges but the rice will be soft and fluffy in the centre.

  10. To eat, scatter over some fresh flat leaf parsley, then scoop everything up with serving utensils and mix it through like a salad, and eat immediately served with lemon wedges or wheels.

Scroll down for images to illustrate the cooking method…

Grill vegetables while you make the  sofrito

Grill vegetables while you make the sofrito

This is a three burner recipe if you want to make it quickly!

This is a three burner recipe if you want to make it quickly!

Add saffron to the stock to soften it before adding it to the rice

Add saffron to the stock to soften it before adding it to the rice

Add Bomba rice to your sofrito pan

Add Bomba rice to your sofrito pan

Add vegetables to the pan as the rice begins to absorb all the stock

Add vegetables to the pan as the rice begins to absorb all the stock

Like this recipe?

Download our eCookbook, Wonderland Food, and get 40+ easy and fun plant-based recipes for FREE!

This recipe is from our new eCookbook, Wonderland Food. We have put together over 40 recipes for plant-based meals you can prepare in tiny kitchens, motorhomes, campers and AirBnbs. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner covered, as well as a couple of happy hour ideas and some pantry items to make before you go. It’s a fun, tasty collection and will certainly make your road trip meals extraordinary. It is free to download and share click here, you will be directed to the pdf to download it.

Please tag us if you make this Paella or any of our recipes using #wonderlandfoodontheroad

Our first eCookbook is here!

Our first eCookbook is here!