For me, paella has to be Valenciana. Perhaps I’ve been spoilt? I lived in Valencia for a year, and paella is always decent, often really yummy, and occasionally to die for. Paella is Valencia’s signature dish because it tastes like a summer’s day in a seaside town of an abundant food-growing province.
But for Valenciana – the real traditional paella Valenciana – paella must be cooked with chicken and rabbit, and those aren’t on the menu for me.
So, my version is an all-vegetable paella, but it’s not a bastardized dish that would piss the Spanish off – it’s a traditional paella with the dial turned up on the veg, which is a combo of beans and beans! Yes – that’s buttery, fat white beans, and fresh, flat green beans – a seriously underrated combination!
You can add other vegetables and/or legumes to your paella to liven it up, and I seriously recommend trying it with lightly sauteed potatoes and some sundried tomato, for a lovely variety of comforty textures and lively flavour. Otherwise, it’s best to keep it simple, and slather on the lemon juice and black pepper for a flavour kick at the table.
Here’s how to make a paella that won’t piss off the entire province of Valencia (one hopes… unlike Jamie Oliver! 😛 ), and will ensure your Sunday lunch guests go home with happy tummies… 😀
Flavour: Savoury and moreish!
Serves: 4 as a main meal
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- quarter teaspoon turmeric (you could use saffron strands, if you prefer the subtler flavour and are willing to fork out that much more money for it)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (optional – I think it adds great flavour)
- 4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped (see here for my tomato-peeling tip)
- 2 cups white beans, soaked and pre-cooked (see here for bean prep)
- 2 cups flat green beans, trimmed and cut into 3cm length pieces
- 2 cups rice – for paella, I tend to use arborio rice, as it fattens up nicely while maintaining its al dente chewy texture
- half a cup of dry white wine
- 3-4 cups of vegetable stock (it’s not exact, as your paella might vary in how much water it absorbs due to ingredients used, and the strength of heat you’re comfortable with or that your stove will cooperate with)
- juice of half a lemon
- generous grind of black pepper
- fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped – to garnish
- wedges of lemon – to season
- black pepper
- Potatoes, par-boiled and either diced (larger potatoes) or sliced (smaller potatoes) – skin on or off, it’s up to you – add these along with the garlic, and saute for a minute before adding the other veggies
- Chickpeas, instead of/as well as the white beans
- Sundried tomatoes – chopped finely, and added along with the fresh tomatoes
- Red capsicum – cut into large chunks, and added at about the half-way mark, when the rice has absorbed about half of the liquid (don’t stir it in – just sprinkle it evenly over the top)
- Peas – sprinkle fresh or frozen peas over the top of the paella (don’t stir in) after you’ve turned the heat to low for the final 5-minute steam
- Heat oil in a large skillet or frying pan over a medium heat
- Add onion, and cook until it turns translucent and starts to colour up
- Add garlic, stir, and cook for one more minute
- Add the salt, green beans, and white beans – stir, and cook for one more minute
- Add the paprika, turmeric, and oregano – stir, and cook for one more minute
- Add the chopped tomatoes, stir, and bring to a simmer
- Add the rice, and stir in thoroughly – bring back to a simmer
- Add the white wine and 3 cups of the vegetable stock (save the fourth cup, as you might need it later if your paella absorbs water fast), stir well, cover with a lid, and leave to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated (15-20 minutes)
- Turn the heat down to low and steam off for 5 minutes
- Pour the lemon juice evenly over your paella, and sprinkle freshly ground black pepper on top to taste
- Just before serving, scrape the bottom of the paella pan to incorporate the soccarat – the delicous caramelised rice from the bottom of the pan that’s really the best bit of the paella (kinda like how the chewy-crunchy corners on a freshly baked lasagna are the best bits 😉 )
Serve your paella straight from the pan with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and some wedges of lemon.
Paella is best enjoyed as a late Sunday lunch with family or friends and a couple of glasses of red wine – be sure to enjoy it slowly and make the most of your company! 🙂