As promised, here’s my favorite recipe from my Ottolenghi experimentation. In fact, this may be my favorite dish of all time at the moment. Vegetarian paella?? Traditionally, paella includes sausage, chicken, and seafood. Vegetarian and paella seem mutually exclusive. Except it works. This paella is so delicious, and pretty easy.
Vegetable Paella, adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty
- olive oil
- 1/2 onion
- 2 red and/or yellow bell peppers
- 1 fennel bulb (the original recipe calls for 1/2 fennel bulb, but what is the Good Enough Gourmet going to do with the other half of a fennel bulb? I put the whole bulb in.)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 t. smoked paprika
- 1/2 t. turmeric
- 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
- 1 c. short grain rice (I used Arborio)
- 6 1/2 T. sherry (hey, I didn’t make these proportions up)
- 1 t. saffron (a must – see my note below)
- 2 c. vegetable or chicken stock
- frozen peas (1-2 handfuls)
- about 15 grape tomatoes, cut in half, OR 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
- about 5 canned or jarred artichoke hearts
- 15 kalamata olives (really, counting is not necessary; I’m just the messenger)
- 2 T. parsley
Before I get into the instructions, a word about saffron. I have not had good luck with saffron. Recipes tend to say that a pinch is all that’s needed. When I use a pinch or two, I can never taste it. I’ve tried crumbling it, letting it steep in hot water, but I still can’t really taste it. This recipe calls for 1 t. saffron, which is a lot more than a pinch. Do it. Don’t skimp on the saffron. Saffron is what makes paella delicious. Buy a small jar of saffron at Trader Joe’s for about 5 bucks. You’ll end up using most of the jar just for this recipe, but think of how much money you’re saving on the meat and the seafood you’re not buying,
1) Mise en place. Prep your ingredients so this dish can go quickly. Chop your onion, press your garlic, cut your peppers into strips and cut the strips in half, slice your fennel into strips. Measure your spices and put them in a prep bowl. Measure out your sherry.
2) In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Saute until the onion softens, then add the peppers and fennel. Cook for about 5 minutes, until all the vegetables soften.
3) Add the bay leaves, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne. Add the rice and stir. Add the sherry and saffron and boil for a minute.
4) The original recipe calls for boiling the stock in a separate pan before adding it. The Good Enough Gourmet was suspicious of this, since it seems like a possibly unnecessary step and adds a pan (no longer a one-pot meal!). I tried it both ways – adding boiling stock and adding cold stock. Unfortunately, I think the rice cooked better when I used the boiling stock, although it did work when I added the cold stock. (I would probably increase the cooking time a little.) Whatever method you choose, add the stock now, and 1/3 t. salt.
5) Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Do not cover the pan, do not stir the rice.
6) While the rice is cooking, cut your artichokes into pieces, slice your olives in half, and if using grape tomatoes, cut them in half. I used grape tomatoes one time and canned tomatoes (undrained) another time — both are delicious. The canned tomatoes make the paella a little saucier. (The picture above and below are with the grape tomatoes.)
7) After 20 minutes, add the artichokes, olives, tomatoes, and frozen peas (no need to defrost) to the pan. Scatter them over the rice and stir a little but not too much. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. (I actually leave the pan on the burner, but turn the burner off, so the pan stays warm.)
8) Chop the parsley, and after 10 minutes add the parsley and stir everything together. Enjoy.
For good measure, below is a picture of the paella my brother-in-law made for us just after returning from Spain. This is proper paella, made with meat and fish, in a real paella pan.