A month ago I went on holiday with a group of 8 university friends. It was pretty much a week devoted to rest and relaxation after the hard slog leading up to finals. We did little other than lounge in the villa garden, play in the pool and eat and drink! We definitely got into a Spanish routine, definitely a change from my usual “early to be early to rise”. Meals were pushed back, with lunch usually around 4 or 5pm and dinner at 10 or 11. Even if we didn’t do anything terribly touristy we did make sure to enjoy some real Spanish food. Sangria and gazpacho were everyday occurrences and we went out for tapas a couple of evenings. My favourite meal out was at a little tucked away place which we happily stumbled across and where we had the most delicious vegetable paella.
I’d forgotten about that meal recently until I found a bag of Arborio rice in the kitchen cupboard. Not wanting to make risotto I wondered if it could be used for paella. Calasparra rice is traditionally used for paella and Arborio for risotto but they are both similarly short grain. Apparently the difference is that paella rice doesn’t create a creamy sauce and rather sticks together. The constant stirring of risotto is what helps the rice release its starch and go creamy so if you just leave it to do its own thing it ends up more like paella and it ends up with that nice crusty bottom and edges.
As usual, I went pretty heavy on the vegetables but you could add as many as and any type you like. The chickpeas are also not typical but I felt like this meal could do with a protein boost, and they add some textural variation too. Tomatoes, sweet paprika and saffron (and a little white wine if you like…) bring everything together.
Summer Vegetable Paella
Large pinch saffron threads (approx 1/4t)
1T Olive Oil
1 Small onion, diced
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Red pepper, 1/2 Yellow pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2T Tomato paste
1/2t Sweet paprika
1 Cup Short-grain rice (Calasparra recommended but I used Arborio. Short grain brown might also work but liquid quantities and cooking times may vary)
1/2 400g/14oz Can chopped tomatoes
500m/2C Vegetable broth + 1/2C White wine (or more broth)
125g/4oz Tenderstem broccoli/Green beans, chopped into short lengths.
1/2C Fresh or Frozen and thawed Peas
Crush the saffron with your fingers into a small bowl and cover with a couple of tablespoons warm water to release its flavour. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and garlic and a good pinch of salt and continue cooking, stirring for another 3 minutes and the peppers are also softening. Add the tomato paste, paprika and rice and stir for a minute until everything is coated in spice and the rice grains begin to crackle. Add the tomatoes and cook until they cook down a little, another 5 minutes. Stir in the saffron and its soaking water and season well with salt and pepper.
Add the vegetable broth, wine, chickpeas and broccoli or green beans. Bring to the boil and stir once. Reduce the temperature to low and allow to simmer, without stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated, approx 10-15 minutes. Add the peas and continue cooking until the top of the paella looks dry, another 5-10 minutes. Leave to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
What dishes have you brought back from holiday with you? I often make notes on meals and foods I’ve enjoyed when I’m away so I can do some recreating in my own kitchen!