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.
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Kidney bean and soya chilli

Soya (TVP) chunks aren’t particularly cheap or easy to get hold of, which is a shame because they’re a fantastic ingredient – shelf stable, adaptable, and really easy to cook (I’m lucky enough to have a cheap supply  close to home). If you don’t have access to soya chunks you can use a meat of your choice, quorn, or firm tofu.

I owe it to my friend Sam for revealing the secret ingredients of a really good chilli – instant coffee and cocoa powder.

Thoroughly rinse 1 400g can kidney beans (you can soak them in water with a few spoonfuls of baking soda to reduce problems with wind). Preheat the oven to 180°C. If you have an oven safe saucepan or stovetop safe casserole dish, use that for cooking – if not, cook in a saucepan and transfer to a casserole dish. Fry 1/2 onion, sliced, and 2 large cloves garlic, sliced, in a spoonful of oil until golden. While the onion is cooking, rehydrate half a cup of soya chunks using boiling water, leaving to soak while you cook the vegetables. Add to the dish 1 small sweet potato, diced into 1cm chunks, and 1/4 red cabbage, also diced. Once the sweet potato is beginning to brown, drain off the soya chunks and kidney beans and add them to the dish with 1 400g can chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp instant coffee powder, 1 tsp cocoa powder and a pinch of chilli flakes. Refill the tomato can with hot water and stir in 1 tsp stock powder; pour about half into the chilli and leave the rest aside in case you need it later. Cover the casserole dish (use foil if you don’t have a lid) and cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes, adding more stock if needed, until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce and the soya chunks are soft to the bite. Five minutes before the end of the cooking time, stir in half a cup of sweetcorn.

Makes 3 portions, keeps in the fridge for a few days. Can be eaten hot or cold.