For some reason I’ve stayed away from making paella, long famous as Spain’s stand out dish. Traditionally it is not a vegetarian recipe, but inspired by the appearance of a paella pan and some fresh ingredients I set too creating for my hosts here in Madrid, my version, albeit with the wee Irish creativity I managed to inherit from some long passed ancestor.
First I must confess that the dish is not completely vegetarian. I did make the stock from whatever I found in the fridge, that being a fish head, a whole tomato, a few spring onion stalks and a carrot chopped into big pieces. I set these ingredients to cook in a pot of about 4-5 cups of water. Hard to remember exactly, but if you make extra you can use it to cook rice or as a soup base the next day.
While the stock simmered I had time to chop an assortment of vegetables and tempeh. Surprising to find the tempeh in Spain to be superior to the taste and texture of what we have in the States. A different process perhaps in how it is made, but very tasty and conducive to a variety of recipes I might not think to include tempeh.
1 onion, chopped * 3 clove garlic, minced * 1 green or red pepper, diced * half a package tempeh * 1 small eggplant, cubed into bite size pieces * 2 fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped * pinch or two of saffron * Spanish olive oil * 1 1/2 cups brown rice * salt to taste
1. In a heavy skillet heat 3 tablespoons or more of olive oil and sauté the onion, garlic and pepper for 3 minutes. Add the tempeh and eggplant stirring well and cook another 3 minutes.
2. Stir in the rice and continue to stir while the rice heats and coats with oil. Stir in the tomatoes and reduce heat to medium low.
3. Ladle in a cup of stock to the rice mixture and stir to combine. This is similar to making risotto, although the Italians might take issue after the very sound thrashing they received at the hands of Spain’s extraordinary soccor team recently. Yeow!
4. Go about making a fresh salad to accompany the meal, all the while adding more stock as the rice cooks. This is a slow cooking dish, but worth the efforts. Just before paella is done, stir in the saffron and watch how the color of your dish shifts to a deep golden red color. Salt to taste.
5. Remove paella from the heat, cover and let sit while you set the table and make the salad dressing. Naturally using a Spanish olive oil, lemon juice or red wine vinegar, garlic and sea salt.