Vegan Paella

The biggest challenge when it comes to adapting paella to be vegan is finding an acceptable substitute for chorizo, which I think is the single ingredient which gives paella its most characteristic flavour. I’ve experimented with soya chunks and aubergine as the substitute, so both methods are listed here. Alternatively you could leave them out and just add an extra teaspoon or two of smoked paprika to the rice.

This recipe serves 3, or 2 generously.

Aubergine: cut 1 small aubergine into inch-thick slices and layer with 1-2 tsp salt. Leave to draw out the moisture for 1-2 hours, then rinse the slices off, pat dry with kitchen paper and cut into cubes. Mix 2 tsp smoked paprika into 2 tbsp oil and coat the aubergine. Leave for another 2-3 hours or overnight to marinade. While you’re cooking the paella, place the aubergine cubes on a foil-lined tray and cook under the grill for 15-20 minutes, turning once, or until well cooked. Stir into the paella towards the end of the cooking time.

Soya chunks: rehydrate 1/2 cup soya chunks with boiling water and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Drain, pat dry with kitchen paper, then marinade and grill the soya chunks as with the aubergine.

In a large lidded saucepan, preferably non-stick, fry 1 small leek, sliced and 1-2 cloves garlic, sliced, until beginning to caramelise. Add 1/2 cup long or short grain rice, 1 bell pepper, cut into chunks, 1-2 teaspoons turmeric and 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (if you don’t have time to pre-marinade the soya chunks/aubergine, add them now with an extra tbsp smoked paprika), and stir to coat the rice. Pour over 1 cup hot vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning over occasionally,  or until the rice is almost cooked (you may have to add a little extra water if the paella starts to look dry). Then add 3-4 small mushrooms, quartered, 1/2 cup peas and the marinaded aubergine or soya chunks, if using. Cover again and cook for a further 5-10 minutes or until the rice is cooked through.

Variations:

  • Red or white onion can be used instead of the leek.
  • Other vegetables to add in with the rice: chunks of sweet potato, halved Brussels sprouts, chunks of red cabbage, cubed raw beetroot or any other root vegetable
  • Other vegetables to add in with the peas and mushrooms: sweetcorn, halved black olives, spinach, kale
  • If you want to use chorizo, add it in a few minutes before the rice and leave out the smoked paprika (or add just a teaspoon, to taste). Meats such as fish or chicken are best cooked first, removed from the pan, and added in again towards the end of the cooking time to prevent overcooking. Cooked frozen prawns should be added in with the peas.

Simple Green Risotto

I’ve always found risottos quite hard to make since they can easily turn out quite bland and soggy. The trick is to use a strong stock mixture and only add as much as you need to the rice, even if it means you end up with some left over.

In a saucepan, gently fry 1/2 onion, thinly sliced and 1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced, in a little oil until translucent. Add 3-4 fingers okra, sliced, 2-3 inches courgette, cubed and 2 mushrooms, cubed, and fry for a further 1-2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup short grain rice and 1/2 tsp thyme, stir to coat, then over 15-20 minutes add approximately 1 cup of strong vegetable stock (I used a generous teaspoon of stock powder), stirring frequently and only adding more stock when the rice has absorbed the water and the bottom of the pan is bubbling. The more you stir the risotto, the creamier it will get. When cooked the rice should be soft and slightly translucent, although retaining a little bite. Sprinkle over cracked pepper and a small handful of grated hard cheese such as Parmesan or Wensleydale.

Serves 1, easily scaled.

Total cooking time: 35 minutes; active time: 20-35 minutes (I did the washing up while the risotto was cooking, but if you’re less experienced you might need to keep more of an eye on things)

Variations:

  • Omit the cheese for vegan; parmesan-style cheeses are often not suitable for vegetarians, so make sure to check if you are serving vegetarians
  • Any green vegetables can be substituted into this risotto. Very soft vegetables such as peas or spinach should be added five minutes from the cooking time. Stinging nettles can also be added to a risotto – once they’re cooked down they lose their sting – but wear rubber gloves to protect your hands while collecting, rinsing and preparing them.
  • For a richer flavour, add a little soy sauce or miso paste during the cooking process
  • Long grain rice can be used to make a risotto, but it will be less creamy and more sticky so it’s best to use short grain if you can afford it.

Pasta and vegetables in white sauce

Cover a large handful of pasta in boiling water, add a little salt, and cook on a roiling boil until the pasta is al dente. Meanwhile, fry 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced, 2 mushrooms, thinly sliced, 3-4 okra, thinly sliced and a handful of green beans, thinly sliced, in a little oil until beginning to brown, then set aside. Drain the pasta and add to the vegetables; rinse out the saucepan used for the pasta and return to the heat. Melt 2 tbsp (25g) butter then add 2 tbsp plain flour and stir until a thick, bubbly paste is formed. Cook for a minute on a medium heat, then add 2/3 cup milk in small increments, making sure the sauce has thickened enough to leave the sides before adding more milk. Stir in the pasta, vegetables, and a large handful of baby spinach, then season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat once the spinach has wilted.

Serves 1 generously

Variations:

  • For a cheese sauce, add a handful of grated cheese to the sauce with the pasta and vegetables.
  • For vegan, substitute the butter for dairy free margarine and the milk for slightly less of a non dairy alternative such as soya or hemp. Don’t use coconut milk – it doesn’t work well for a white sauce.
  • Other green vegetables such as peas, courgette, broad beans etc. will work well. Chard or pak choi can be used instead of the spinach, although it’s best to separate the leaves and stems and cook the stems with the rest of the vegetables.

Sticky Chinese Vegetables

Adapted from a recipe for squirrel fish in an old Chinese cookbook. Fairly quick and simple once you get the hang of the technique.

In a small bowl, mix 1 heaped tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp tomato ketchup, and 2 tbsp fruit juice (I used pomegranate juice because it’s what I happened to have in the fridge – apple, orange, pineapple, cranberry etc should be fine as well. If using lemon or lime juice substitute 1 tbsp fruit juice with water). In another small bowl slake 1/4 tsp cornflour with 1 tbsp cold water to form a paste. Slice as thinly as possible 1-2 inches aubergine, 2 inches plantain, 1/4 bell pepper, a handful of red cabbage, a handful of frozen peas and 2 mushrooms. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan or wok above a high heat until a haze forms above the oil, then add all the vegetables. They should begin to sizzle immediately. Fry, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes or until the cabbage has softened and the plantain is beginning to caramelise. Stir in the sauce mixture, then stir the cornflour paste and add it to the pan. The sauce should thicken, making the vegetables look glossy. Take off the heat and serve in wraps or with rice.

Serves 1 or 2 with sides

Variations:

  • I’ve tried this with sweet potato, but it needs to be cooked for a few more minutes than the rest of the vegetables to make sure it’s softened. Onion would probably need the same treatment too.
  • Goes very well with smoked mackerel.