I don’t make paella very often, but I have no idea why – it’s so simple. Throw a load of vegetables in a pan, add some rice and stock, and you’re already 90% of the way there. It’s very hard to get wrong. Paella traditionally includes various meats and seafoods, but for obvious reasons, I went with a vegetarian paella, adding some chickpeas as a protein replacement. It makes a great full meal, or you can serve it as a side dish if you prefer. Whatever floats your boat. Whatever takes your fancy. Whatever rocks your socks.
Paella is a really good thing to make if you’re not 100% confident about your cooking ability. As long as you’re not too concerned with being authentic (which I’m usually not, sorry to any Spaniards reading!), you can pretty much stick whatever you like in there and it will work out fine. Plus, if you forget to stir it for a while, it actually doesn’t matter – the little bits of crispy rice you get around the bottom of the pan are delicious! Yes, you heard that right: it’s actually a bonus if you forget to stir it for a while. You actually get rewarded for being scatter-brained.
Speaking of being authentic: paella usually contains saffron. You know, the stuff that costs more than gold gram-for-gram. Obviously you’re never going to want to buy an ingot of saffron, so really I find that comparison a bit useless, but it’s true nonetheless – saffron is pretty expensive. For the same price as you’d get a whole pot of most other herbs or spices, you get a few measly strands of saffron. So, it’s up to you whether you include it or not. Obviously it does bring a bit of flavour to the dish, but in my opinion its main contribution is the colour (or perhaps that’s just my unrefined tastebuds talking). In an attempt to be a bit more budget-friendly, I just used a bit of yellow turmeric instead to mimic the colour of the saffron (so I could kid myself I’d been authentic…).
Again, Spaniards: sorry sorry sorry.
To anyone else: give it a go! It’s a very simplified version of paella, but it’s delicious nonetheless.
Vegetarian paella with chickpeas
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion halved and then thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 red pepper sliced
- 1 green pepper sliced
- 150 g broccoli cut into bite-sized florets
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 500 g long-grain white rice
- 1.2 litres vegetable stock
- A few strands of saffron optional
- 4 large tomatoes cut into wedges
- 400 g tin chickpeas 240g when drained, drained
- Black pepper
- To serve: fresh lemon juice fresh chopped parsley
- Heat the oil in a very large pan or wok. Add the onion, garlic, peppers and broccoli, and cook over a medium-low heat for around 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the broccoli and spices, and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Next, add the rice and the vegetable stock, along with the saffron if you're using it. Mix well, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook gently for around 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until the rice is nearly cooked.
- Add the tomatoes and chickpeas, and cook for a little longer until the rice is fully cooked and any excess water has disappeared. Season with plenty of black pepper (and salt, if you used low sodium stock), and serve topped with plenty of fresh lemon juice and chopped parsley.