Recipes

Vegetable paella

The key to a great paella is the rice. Look for rice grown in the Calasparra region: the best variety is called bomba. You could substitute with the Italian short-grain, arborio. Depending on which rice you use, you may need to adjust the amount of stock needed. If it's a nice day cook the paella on the barbecue; this actually helps it cook, since the heat source is evenly distributed.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 whole preserved artichokes with stem
  • 2 roasted piquillo peppers
  • 1 brown onion
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 green zucchini
  • 10 saffron threads
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 300g Calasparra rice
  • 40ml fino sherry
  • 800ml vegetable stock (approx)
  • 2 tsp smoky sweet paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Finely chop garlic. Cut artichokes into quarters. Cut peppers into strips.

Dice remaining vegetables into 1cm pieces. Using a mortar and pestle, pound together the saffron and salt.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large non-stick frying pan or paella pan. Add eggplant and fry on a medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes, until golden but still holding their shape. Remove and drain on paper towel. Add remaining oil on a low heat, then add onion and garlic. Pan-fry for about 5 minutes then add capsicum, zucchini and tomato. Pan-fry for about another 3 minutes.

Add rice, mix through and toast for a minute. Add sherry, stir through, then add stock. Sprinkle over saffron, salt and paprika. Stir for the last time, then let it come to a boil. Leave it to simmer and as tempted as you might get, do not stir the rice!

After 10 minutes, add artichokes to the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes more, then add peppers and eggplant. Simmer for a final 5 minutes, until the liquid has absorbed and rice is al dente.

To form a crust on the bottom (essential in an authentic paella), increase heat at the end of cooking, paying close attention to the sound of the rice (it crackles) and the smell (toasty but not burned). After 1-2 minutes, prod with a spoon; you should feel just a touch of bumpy resistance on the bottom of the pan.

Remove from heat, cover with foil and rest for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle over parsley, give a good grind of pepper, then serve at the table from the pan.

NOTES: First published in the Good Weekend.
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