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.

Calas

Calas, or rice beignets, are a traditional dish from New Orleans and an interesting way to use up leftover cooked rice. The frying oil, once cool, can be passed through a fine sieve and used up in cooking or, if it’s not too dark and bitty, used again for deep frying.

Mix together 1 cup cooked white rice, 3 tbsp plain flour, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and a sprinkle of ground cardamom. Add an egg and mix in thoroughly. Heat 1 1/2 inches of oil in a steep sided frying pan over a medium heat. Test the heat of the oil with a few grains of the mixture – it should sizzle but not spit. Take a heaped spoonful of the mixture, smooth down the top, then slide off the spoon into the oil with your finger. Cook the calas for 3-4 minutes on either side or until brown and crispy on the outside. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on kitchen paper to drain. Sprinkle over icing sugar and eat hot.

Serves 2 as a snack.

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.

Cauliflower Biriyani

Adapted from a vegetarian recipe with the help of a friend. Not very authentic, but adaptable to whatever’s in the fridge.

Fry 1 medium onion or leek, thinly sliced and 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or thinly sliced, in a little oil in a large (preferably non-stick) saucepan for 5 minutes, or until onion/leek is beginning to soften. Add 1/2 cup brown or white rice, 1 heaped tbsp curry paste, a pinch of chilli flakes to taste, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1 tsp garam masala and stir well until the spices coat the rice. Add 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets, 1 small courgette, thickly sliced, a handful of broken cashew nuts, a handful of raisins and a 400ml can coconut milk. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes (brown rice will take longer to cook), stirring occasionally and adding 1/2 cup water about halfway through the cooking time, until the rice is cooked through and the liquid has been absorbed.

Serves 2, or 3 with naans

Variations:

  • Easily scaled and frozen or eaten for leftovers. Keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  • Instead of coconut milk, any other non-dairy milk or 1/2 cup yoghurt and 1/2 cup water or stock may be used
  • The best kind of cauliflower to use is romanesque, although it’s not always easy to get hold of! A mixture of cauliflower and broccoli can be used as well
  • The turmeric, chilli flakes and garam masala can be substituted for an extra tsp of curry paste if you don’t have them
  • If your cauliflower comes with leaves on, they can be added to the biriyani halfway through the cooking time
  • I would suggest keeping the cauliflower but any other vegetables can be substituted in and out as you have them. Soft vegetables like peas, spinach etc should be added to the biriyani halfway through the cooking time, or else they’ll cook down to mulch.