Friday, July 29, 2011


I have been wanting to try a vegetarian paella for quite sometime now. I have lived in Miami for 7 years but never made a good attempt to do it. I have heard my friends and colleagues vouch for restaurants that serve good seafood paella but I never came across any good veg. paellas. I even bought a paella pan but never got around to making it, it served me well to make giant dosais!!! So, now, I finally decided to try making it at home!

Paella is originally a Valencian specialty but just like any other dish, there are different versions - Valencian paella, seafood paella, different preparation techniques, spices vary in different recipes and of course each chef has his/her own twists to add. This article Paella:Rice at Its Best by Norberto Jorge is a great place to start if you wish to learn more about this comfort food!

I don't have a paella pan now and I don't have any fresh herbs besides parsley (read my NOTE on parsley) but I do have saffron and I know that saffron is the dominant flavor in a paella. To give my version a healthy touch, I am making it with couscous instead of rice!


Saffron - 2 pinches
Heat a small non stick pan and saute the saffron (no oil!!) for 2-3 minutes. Turn the stove off and let it sit.

Mushrooms - 6 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
Green beans - 1/2 c, thin long 2-3" strips
I used a frozen mix of sweet corn, soybeans, red peppers - 1/2 c (you could use sliced fresh red peppers)

Saute the above in olive oil with some salt and set aside when done.

Couscous - 1.5c

Vegetable Broth:
For this, I use Maggi Vegetable Stock cubes (a single cube makes 2c of broth), you can find these in any Indian store (or) you can look for Maggi buillons online or in regular grocery stores.

When you start the pan for the sofrito, heat 2 cups of water in a pot on the side and add 1 Maggi cube. Once the cube melts and the broth is ready, crush the toasted saffron into the stock, mix well, let it come to a gentle boil for about 30 seconds and turn the stove off.

Onion - 1/2, cut to 2" thin strips
Tomatoes - 1, thin lengthwise strips
Garlic - 1, whole
Chili powder - according to taste (I used a roasted Mexican chili powder)

A combination of the above three makes what's called a Sofrito. Again, each Latin cuisine makes it's own style but generally speaking, a sofrito forms the base for a dish. The ingredients are sauteed on a pan with some heated olive oil till they come to a thick paste like consistency. Alternatively, you can make the paste in a blender. You can see what the final product looks like in the "The preliminary saute" section of Jorge's article above (or) in the image HERE.

I wanted to keep the vegetables kinda whole so I heated some EVOO in a pan and sauteed the onion, tomatoes and the garlic. As for the garlic, chop off the top bit of the bulb to release some flavor. I removed about 2 big pods, whacked, peeled and added them to the pan. The rest went into the pan as is, in the bulb! I got the idea to do this HERE (another great paella post). Also, make sure to check the bulb for any dirt etc. Add some salt, chili powder and when the mix is done, remove the garlic bulb and set aside.

Add the couscous into the pan and saute for about 2 minutes. Now, add the broth, mix (check salt) and spread the vegetables over and kinda bury the garlic bulb in the center, cover the pan and turn the heat to simmer. Let it cook (undisturbed, whether you make it with rice or couscous it's very important to not stir at this point) for about 10 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle some chopped fresh parsley. Check a few couscous pearls, if it's almost done, turn the heat off, put the lid back on and let it sit for 10 more minutes. I also arranged some lemon wedges into the paella. Traditionally, you need to cook it long enough to form a nice crust in the bottom of the pan, almost a step before burning but I settled with just cooking it well.

The initial verdict was "it tastes like sea". I knew that was saffron, "like sea" is one of the most common taste descriptions for saffron! I must say that the overall taste is very alien to Indian palettes but I think it's a simple and refreshing dish! Saffron rules the dish, the tang of the lemon complements the taste of saffron, and mushroom adds an interesting bite to it - so lemon and mushrooms are a must in my paella!

That was one long post. The steps make it look like I spent the whole day making this dish. Nope! It takes less than 30 minutes to make it and I absolutely enjoyed the preparation :)

1 comment:

  1. paella...never heard of tht one b4 are my guru to introduce me to all this new stuff


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