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.

Guest Recipe: Rhey’s Jambalaya

My American friend Rhey and I made this together over Skype on Thanksgiving. It’s not strictly authentic, but personally I prefer Rhey’s less-meat-more-vegetables take on this traditional Cajun dish.

Cut 1 small plantain and 1 small sweet potato into large chunks and place on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and a few cracks of black pepper. Roast at 180°C while preparing the rest of the dish. Cut 2 pork sausages into chunks and brown in a little butter in a large saucepan. Remove the sausage chunks and fry 1 onion, roughly chopped, and 2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced, until beginning to soften. Add 1 red or orange pepper, cut into chunks, and a large handful of red cabbage, roughly chopped. Fry until the onion becomes translucent, then add the sausage, 1 cup long or short grain rice, 2 cups hot stock, 1 tbsp paprika or smoked paprika, a pinch of salt, a generous crack of black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste, and a splash of Worcester sauce or soy sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes until the rice is almost cooked through, lifting occasionally to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan but not stirring. Take the plantain and sweet potato out of the oven and mix it into the jambalaya with a large handful of pre-cooked prawns. Cook for a final ten minutes or until the prawns are heated through and the rice is done, then serve.

Makes 3-4 portions, depending how hungry you are. Keeps in the fridge for a few days.

Variations:

  • Instead of prawns, Rhey used chicken, cooked with the sausage. It’s traditional for jambalaya to have two meats, but it’s not vital.
  • What vegetables you add to the jambalaya depends on what you have lying around. Any other hard vegetables, such as carrot or parsnip, can be roasted with the sweet potato. Soft vegetables like peas or sweetcorn could be added towards the end of the cooking time; vegetables like green beans or broccoli would probably be best steamed separately and again added with the sweet potato.

Shakshouka

Adapted from a Riverford Farms recipe; the dish itself is of North African origin. Serves one, but is easily scaled; if you’re cooking for more than one person make a well for each egg (you’ll need to use a steep sided frying pan or a large saucepan). From start to finish, this recipe for shouldn’t take more than half an hour for one person.

In a small saucepan, fry in oil or butter over a high heat 1/2 onion, thickly sliced, for about five minutes or until softened. Then add 2/3 red bell pepper, thinly sliced and 1/2 plantain, cubed and 1 clove garlic, sliced and continue to fry until the pepper is soft. Add 1/3 cup chopped tomatoes (about 1/3 of a 400g tin), 1/4 teaspoon each of ground coriander and cumin, and a generous pinch of cayenne pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Add a little brown sugar if it is still sharp. Make a well in the vegetable mixture and crack an egg into it. Cover and simmer for five minutes, or until the egg has set. Season with black pepper before serving.

 

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.

Buckwheat Salad

Cover 1/4 cup buckwheat groats with boiling water and simmer over a low heat for five to ten minutes. Meanwhile, mix together a handful of lettuce leaves, shredded, one cooked beetroot, finely diced, about two inches of plantain, finely diced, 1/3 red bell pepper, finely diced and a small amount of brie or other cheese, thinly sliced. Strain the buckwheat and stir in 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, a pinch of ground ginger and a pinch of cumin. Pour the buckwheat over the salad.

Serves 1 – can be eaten hot or cold.

Variations:

  • Any raw or pre-cooked vegetables can be used in the salad, depending on what you have in the fridge.
  • Omit the brie for vegan.

Lentil Lasagne

Takes some time and practice, especially the sauce, but it’s an old favourite of mine.

Cover 1/2 cup red lentils with boiling water and leave to stand. Fry 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced and 1 red onion, thickly chopped, in a little oil over a medium heat until beginning to soften. Add 1/2 medium sweet potato, cubed, 1/2 bell pepper, thickly chopped and 1/4 red cabbage, thickly chopped, and fry for five minutes, stirring. Strain the lentils and add to the pan with 4-5 mushrooms, quartered, 1/2 can chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard and 1 tsp cumin seeds. Leave to simmer while preparing the sauce.
To make the sauce, melt 2 tbsp butter (about 1cm cut from a 100g block) in a small saucepan, then at add 2 heaped tbsp plain flour and stir thoroughly. The mixture should be thick and gluey, coming away from the side of the pan. If it’s thin, stir in a little more flour. Stirring constantly, slowly add 1 cup milk in increments – allow the sauce to thicken before adding more. Continue to cook the sauce for 2-3 minutes, then add a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp paprika and/or a handful of grated cheese if desired.
Spoon half of the lentil mixture into a large casserole dish and cover with sheets of lasagne (the amount you need will depend on the size of your dish). Pour over half of the sauce and smooth it out. Don’t worry if the sauce is thin – it will taste fine. Add the rest of the lentil mixture, cover with lasagne sheets, and pour over the rest of the sauce, making sure the pasta is covered. Crack pepper over the top and place in the oven at 180°C for 40 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through and easily cut with a knife.

Serves 3 generously, easily frozen

Variations:

  • For vegan, substitute the butter for margarine and milk for a non-dairy milk. I think soya milk works best for this recipe – better than dairy milk – but other milks should be fine. I’ve tried making white sauces with coconut milk, though, and I wouldn’t advise it.
  • Any of the vegetables can be substituted out for others; hard vegetables should be added with the cabbage and soft with the mushrooms and tomato. Particular favourites of mine are aubergine, peas, carrot and cauliflower.
  • Sliced fresh tomatoes can be arranged on top of the lasagne before baking. Particularly impressive if you have guests.
  • The lasagne sheets can be replaced with thinly sliced aubergine, although it will take longer to cook in the oven.

Thai Prawn Noodle Soup

Adapted from a BBC Good Food recipe I tore out of a magazine years ago.

Snap and cook 1 portion of noodles (egg, udon, instant etc) according to packet instructions. While the noodles are cooking, thinly slice 1/4 green bell pepper, 1/4 courgette and 1 clove garlic, then fry in oil over a high heat for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Turn down the heat and add 1 tbsp curry paste, 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup coconut milk, a pinch of chilli flakes and a large handful of frozen cooked prawns. Cook for 3-4 minutes until prawns are heated through. Stir in the noodles.

Serves 1; the soup base keeps in the fridge for a few days but it’s best to cook the noodles fresh for each portion otherwise they go soggy on reheating.

Variations:

  • Also very good with sliced button mushrooms, added with the prawns.
  • The original recipe called for pak choi; I’ve also made this with spinach and chard. The stalks can be cooked with the garlic and leaves added with the prawns.
  • For a hotter variation use a thinly sliced chilli pepper instead of the chilli flakes; fry them with the garlic
  • You can use thai curry paste for this, although I don’t usually have it in the cupboard.