For a tasty family meal that's loaded with nourishing vegetables, try our easy vegetarian paella!
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Heat oil in a paella pan or large frying pan, cook the onion, mushrooms and zucchini stirring for 3 mins or until the onion softens. Add the garlic and the rice, cook stirring 2 mins until the rice is slightly toasted.
Add the capsicum, tomatoes and peas, stir to combine. Add the saffron and the paprika, cook, stirring for 1 min or until fragrant. Pour in the stock. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer without stirring for 20 mins or until the rice cooked. There should still be a little stock covering the rice.
Arrange spinach over the rice and cook for a further 10 mins until the liquid absorbs and stops bubbling.
Serve paella sprinkled with parsley and lemon wedges.
If one of your go-to dishes is fried rice, try this easy one-pan veg paella recipe for something a little different. Paella is a Spanish recipe – pronounced pay-eh-ya – that’s been prepared for many centuries. Traditionally, it was made by Valencian rice workers who would cook some of their crop in a large, flat pan over a fire, adding whatever vegetables and meat they had available. While many people think paella is cooked using seafood, it can be made using rabbit, chicken, pork or, of course, a selection of vegetables.
Paella is, in fact, the name of the pan that the dish is cooked in, but you can use any large, deep frying pan, skillet or even a pot, as long as it has a large base.
The authentic version uses two very specific spices – saffron and paprika – and this paella vegetable recipe is no different. Saffron is the dried stigma of a flower called the saffron crocus. During cooking, these threads, as they’re known, give dishes a golden-yellow colour.
Usually paella is made using another ingredient called sofrito. It’s a traditional Spanish tomato sauce of slow-cooked tomatoes, onion, garlic and capsicum. All of these are used in this vegetarian paella recipe, but are added during the cooking of the rice, saving precious time in the kitchen.
Perfectly cooked rice is the most important part of a tasty paella. You’re probably familiar with the Italian term al dente, used to describe the right way to cook pasta. The Spanish word alpunto means the same thing – cooked but still slightly firm to the tooth. When you’re cooking paella, avoid overcooking the rice at all costs. It should resemble the texture of pilaf rather than risotto. There’s no way it should be creamy or, worse, mushy.
Talk to most people who eat a lot of paella and they’ll tell you the most authentic ones have what is called socarrat. This is a crispy, delicious layer of caramelised rice at the bottom of the pan – everyone will want some of it on their plate – that’s most easily achieved if you’re cooking over a gas flame.
One of the tricks to getting great socarrat is not stirring the rice while it’s cooking. Some people also suggest turning up the heat under the pan for a couple of minutes at the end of the cooking process. If you listen closely, you’ll hear a low crackling sound that indicates it’s forming. Don’t overdo it though, because burning the bottom layer of rice will send that flavour through the whole dish. Can’t get a good socarrat? Don’t worry – this dish is still incredibly tasty without it.
Don’t give in to temptation – rather than dishing the paella onto individual serving plates at the kitchen counter, put a trivet in the middle of the table and place the full pan of veggie paella on it. Then everyone can dish up their own, and go in for seconds.
First, sprinkle torn flat-leaf parsley leaves over the top of the paella, and present it with a bowl of lemon wedges. Squeezing a little juice over the top of the dished-up rice gives the dish a really fresh, zesty flavour. Then, it’s time to dig in!