You know when you look at a word for too long, and it suddenly stops making any sense? I’ve totally done that with the word ‘paella’. It’s obviously not an English word in the first place so I think I should let myself off, but for a while there I was genuinely concerned that I’d invented the word myself. Paella. Vegetarian paella. Vegan paella. Pie-ell-aaaa. It means nothing to me any more.
Anyway, when James Villas challenged me to recreate one of my favourite holiday recipes as part of their My Holiday Dish series, my mind went straight for paella. I’ve been to Spain a few times, and it’s one of my favourite countries (it’s hard to argue with all that sunshine) – but I’ve had mixed luck eating paella in Spain. Some places are really vegetarian-friendly, offering the most amazing vegetarian paella you can imagine, piled high with veggies, beans, fresh herbs, drizzled with olive oil – a vegetarian’s heaven. Other places… not so much. I can think of one time in particular where I had to plump for a very non-Spanish margherita pizza while the rest of my family tucked into paella, because there wasn’t a vegetarian version on the menu. It’s rare that pizza is ever accompanied by disappointment, but on this occasion it definitely was.
So rather than having to search all across Spain for a suitable paella (not to mention spending 2 or 3 hours on a plane, snore), I thought I’d just make my own instead. And not to blow my own trumpet or anything (except I totally am), but it was almost as delicious as any paella I’ve ever had in Spain. For me, the stars of this vegetarian paella are the marinated artichokes and olives – both give so much flavour! Finish everything off with a squeeze of lemon and some fresh parsley, and you’ve got a comforting, but still fresh and summery, dinner.
By the way, don’t be tempted to stir your paella while it’s cooking – we’re not making risotto here. Just keep the heat low, cover the pan, and let the rice slowly absorb that rich and flavourful spiced stock. Hopefully, you’ll get some nice crispy bits around the bottom – so go and be lazy, and let your dinner cook itself.
What’s your ultimate holiday recipe – the thing you always look forward to eating when you go abroad? Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to attempt! And you can check out more holiday recipes on the James Villas website – including these simple pepper and goat’s cheese tarts, which look like the sort of thing I’d happily eat seven of – or using the hashtag #MyHolidayDish.
Vegetarian paella with artichokes and olives
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced or diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 120 g green beans, trimmed and halved (~ 1 cup)
- 150 g cooked cannellini beans (~ 3/4 cup) - I used tinned
- 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 200 g short-grain white rice, e.g. arborio (~ 1 cup)
- 500 ml vegetable stock (~ 2 cups)
- Black pepper
- 160 g marinated artichoke hearts (~ 1 cup)
- 50 g green olives (~ 1/2 cup)
- tbsp To serve: 2 extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, fresh parsley
- Heat the oil in a frying pan, and add the onion and pepper. Cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, until slightly soft. Add the garlic and green beans, and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Next add the cannellini beans, smoked paprika and turmeric, and mix to coat. Turn the heat down to low. Pour in the rice, vegetable stock, and plenty of black pepper. Mix carefully once to make sure everything is evenly distributed, then stop stirring. Arrange the artichoke hearts and olives on top of the paella, and cover with a lid. Leave to cook over a low heat for around 25-30 minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked. Serve topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and some fresh parsley.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for one third of the recipe.