by Dick Handscombe
Not everyone likes to eat factory-grown chickens and rabbits in Paellas, especially if they are imported, so the solution is to cook vegetable paellas with as wide a diversity of vegetables as possible to achieve a great flavour and maximise the mix of beneficial fibres, vitamins and trace minerals.
If you grow some of your own vegetables, a Spring vegetable paella is a great way of using up maturing overwintered vegetables, the first of the Spring vegetables and the remnants of vegetables from last year from the deep freeze. Naturally if you grow only a few varieties you can just use what you have, or supplement home-grown varieties with others from a local greengrocer, preferably one that sells some ecologically grown vegetables.
Last weekend I did just that for a dozen friends, some of whom were vegetarians and the others wanted to try a meatless Paella for a change.
The mix of vegetables used was extensive as a special Spring treat. It comprised the following; green red and yellow peppers, Padron peppers, a carrot and turnip, half a medium sized sweet potato, cultivated and wild asparagus, fresh peas and broad beans, frozen flat green beans and haricot beans, fresh round beans, a medium frozen tomato, courgette and cucumber, radishes, broccoli and cauliflower, onion and garlic, parsley and rocket, celery and garlic chives, Brussel sprouts frozen from Christmas, black and pink aubergines, dried mushrooms, a medium potato, artichoke hearts, leek, fennel root, a few nasturtium leaves and flowers, plus fresh marjoram, parsley, Syrian sage and coriander.
Naturally not much of each was used as just 1.5 kilos of chopped vegetables were necessary. As explained in my book about cooking authentic Paellas, aim for 100-150 grams of vegetables and 80-100 grams of short grained Paella rice per person.
The books are available from Amazon Books in both English and Spanish. Interestingly, more Spanish books than English books have sold to date as many young people have not bothered to learn the art of preparing good traditional Paellas from their grandparents.
The essential steps in the process of preparing the vegetable Paella are as follows:
Gather together all the ingredients and chop into small pieces.
Heat up 150ml of olive oil per 500 grams of olive oil in a Paella pan and lightly fry the chopped onion and garlic. Then pour in all the other ingredients and fry slowly on a low heat until all the oil has been taken up by the vegetables.
Add water up to the rivets of the Paella pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes whilst adding salt, sweet pepper powder, saffron and a couple of bay leaves for flavouring and colour.
Add 80-100 grams of rice to the hot liquid, reducing the heat gradually as the water is absorbed by the rice. Once no free liquid is visible and a slight cooked skin is starting to form on the bottom of the Paella pan, turn off the gas and cover the dish with a cloth for five minutes.
Take to the table. Remove the cloth and serve with slices of lemons served for squeezing over the serving if desired.
Happy summer Paella parties this spring, summer and autumn.
© Dick Handscombe