Spanish Vegetarian Paella

We are just back from a trip to Spain and what better way to celebrate our home coming than by cooking up some Spanish delicacies. We landed in Barcelona late evening and well before we called it a day we had to get some dinner. Our first taste of Spanish culture was a magnificent Flamenco show with dinner.



The dinner started with a salad and a selection of tapas followed by a main course of Paella. To wash down the food was a fruity red wine concoction called Sangria. This wasn't all, it ended with a dessert of Chocolate Profiteroles and fruit salad. What a way to start our Spanish fiesta. "Fiesta" is the Spanish word for "Holiday" according to Google. The word itself resonates to me a celebration or festival and our holiday was truly a memorable celebration of delicious food, crazy architecture from the likes of Gaudi and Spanish culture. 


For those of you who don't know what a Paella is it is a Spanish rice dish made typically with saffron, seafood and chicken. The rice is a special rice similar to the risotto rice and the dish as a whole is slow cooked in a shallow pan which adds to the flavour. Being vegetarians who do not eat meat or fish, we obviously had the vegetarian Paella and the recipe here is for the vegetarian Paella.


Paella is a very colorful dish and is a great way of getting all the veggies into your meal. You can literally go wild and throw in any vegetables of your choice. No restrictions whatsoever.

Ingredients:
10 strands Saffron, soaked in 2 tablespoons of water
250 gram Paella Rice, washed and soaked
2 tablespoons of Sunflower Oil
4 cups Water
Salt to taste

Vegetables:
10 French Beans, ends trimmed
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 cup Mushrooms, chopped
5 Baby Broccoli florets
1 medium Onion, diced
1/2 cup Frozen peas
5 Artichoke hearts
2 Carrots, diced
5 Baby Corns
8 Mangetouts

Spices:
1/2 teaspoon Black/ white pepper
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder
1 tablespoon Garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Chili powder
1/8 teaspoon Oregano
2 tablespoon Paprika

Method:
  1. Saute the mushrooms in a wide shallow pan till they shrink and the water drains out. Keep them aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wide shallow pan, add the chopped onions and saute. Once the onion softens and starts coloring, add the vegetables starting with the vegetables that take long to cook like carrots and then towards the end add vegetables that do not need long to cook. 
  3. Once all the vegetables have been added and they have softened, in goes all the spices. Mix the spice powders well so they coat all the vegetables. Let it cook for 2 minutes. 
  4. Now add in the washed soaked rice after draining it. Mix well for 2 minutes then add 2 cups of water, the soaked saffron water and salt to taste. Cover the pan, stir occasionally and cook on a slow flame for 15 mins. Add more water if required for the rice to cook. Cook till the rice softens. 
  5. Serve hot, garnished with chopped fresh parsley leaves.

Notes:
  1. If you cannot find Paella rice use Risotto Rice. I cannot make out any difference between the two types of rice so they can be swapped for each other. 
  2. Soak the rice in hot water for 10 to 15 mins while your vegetables cook to help the rice cook faster. 
  3. For artichoke hearts, you can use tinned or pickled ones after washing them as carving the hearts yourself may take quite some skill and effort.
  4. If using artichoke hearts that are tinned add them just before serving. These would be already cooked and soft and will break apart when stirring if added early with the rest of the vegetables.
  5. Use vegetables of your choice, there is no vegetable that is right or wrong for the dish. I would however not use aubergine or beetroot in it if you ask me.
  6. If you do not like the smokiness of the paprika, swap it with chili powder.
  7. To add flavor to the dish, replace water with vegetable stock.


Cheat's Tip : If you want to cook this dish up in less than 20 mins, there is shortcut for that too. Try the Schwartz Spanish Paella flavor shot and all you need to do is fry the veggies with the mix then add in your washed, drained rice. Once the rice cooks with enough water, your dish is ready. Its as simple as that.






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