Vegetable Paella

This nourishing vibrant dish has held a place of honor and practicality in Spanish homes for centuries. The key to this dish is the crusty caramelized layer of rice, called socarrat, that forms on the bottom of the pan.

Paella rice, sometimes labeled bomba or Valencia, is a white short-grain rice prized for its ability to stay firm when cooked. It can be found in gourmet grocery stores. If you can’t find paella rice, Arborio rice can be substituted, although the texture will be slightly softer when cooked.

We took a twist on the traditional recipe and made it vegetarian friendly (with a skin-loving ingredient) over the stove-top.

The secret skin ingredient in this dish is bell pepper. Did you know that red bell peppers contain nearly three times more vitamin C than an orange? With such a high concentration of vitamin C, bell peppers are little collagen-boosting marvels. Make sure you choose organic, as regular bell peppers are part of the "Dirty Dozen," with 49 pesticide residues found... yikes!

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green and 1 red pepper, cored and diced
1 cup (that's cup and not mug) of peas (frozen are fine)
2 tomatoes, chopped
Chopped veggies of choice (mushrooms, cauliflower, carrots)
1 tsp paprika
a good pinch of saffron threads (not absolutely necessary), dissolved in
800ml chicken or vegetable stock
ground black pepper
250-300g arborio rice or any other white short grain rice
chopped parsley, optional, as much as you like

 

How-To:

Prepare all the ingredients and have them lined up in front of you in the order listed above - it will make cooking the dish so much easier.


Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add the onions and garlic, cover and cook for about 3 minutes until soft. Then add the peppers, peas and other veggies, stir in, cover again and cook for a few more minutes.


Make a well in the centre, put the tomatoes in the well and the paprika on top. Then add the stock (with the saffron if you have it), but make sure it doesn't overflow: if it gets more then half a cm close to the rim of the pan, stop adding stock and just use less rice. Season with pepper and stir.


Scatter as much of the rice as you think will fit over the stock (depends on your pan, really), stir it in gently, then allow it to simmer gently until the liquid has absorbed and the rice is cooked. This could take about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Test a bit of the rice to see if it's cooked, add a bit of stock or hot water if it is not done.


Stir in the parsley a few minutes before it has finished cooking, if you want to use it, then serve hot. It's also pretty nice cold and should keep for a few days in the fridge.

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