Tuesday 28 April 2020


On my continued quest to use this time in lockdown somewhat productively by cooking and making all those culinary things I have never got around to trying or have been too intimidated by to even attempt, this Saturday, inspired by my yummy potato tortilla that got me feeling all holiday like, I thought it was just about time to try my hand at making that iconic Spanish rice dish that is paella! 

Not a strictly traditional paella I will say, I don't eat chicken and chorizo and also couldn't be bothered to find good quality prawns, but this vegan version was an absolute dream and so vibrant in its flavours that no meat or fish or even dairy was missed! 

Indeed this paella recipe is bursting with wonderfully fragrant spices like saffron, smoked paprika and cayenne which immediately transport you into warmer climates and I loved the addition of green olives, mushrooms, capers, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts, full of those umami elements, that made every mouth full of this an utter delight to eat and also surprisingly wholesome and healthy.

It was also super easy to make, apart from a bit of chopping, it's more of an assembly job, with the whole thing finished off in the oven, the rice coming out perfectly cooked and all ingredients fused into one tasty end result! 

This is the perfect dish for pleasing a crowd (or an ideal dinner for one if you scale back quantities) and a great way to spend an afternoon chopping away while sipping on a glass of wine. Indeed while it might be bleak weather for all of us this week (eek), why not bring a bit of Spanish sunshine into your kitchen with this great paella, after all a bit of escapism for sure is not going to do any of us any harm right now!

 Serves 4

  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/3 cup virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 150 grams mushrooms (any kind you can find)
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 courgettes sliced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups paella rice (I used this one from Waitrose)
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 3/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, halved
  • 100g sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup capers drained
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped

  • In a small bowl, pour hot water over the saffron. Set aside for at least fifteen minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Move a rack to the bottom third of your oven.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof saucepan over medium high heat. 
  • Add the onion and cook for just two minutes. 
  • Add the mushrooms and cook until just beginning to brown. 
  • Add the garlic and cook for just one minute. 
  • Add the zucchini slices and continue cooking for three minutes.
  • Add the spices: paprika, smoked hot paprika, cayenne, thyme and bay leaves, salt and pepper. 
  • Stir and cook to waken up the spice's flavours.
  • Add the rice and stir to coat. 
  • Add the white wine. 
  • Simmer until reduced to about half.
  • Add the vegetable broth, sun-dried tomatoes and the saffron with the water. 
  • Stir gently and bring the pan to a simmer. 
  • Cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Arrange the artichoke on top of the rice. 
  • Transfer the pan to the bottom third of the oven. 
  • This will prevent the top from overcooking and will give you a desirable bottom crust. 
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Scatter the capers and the olives over the top. 
  • Continue baking the paella for 10 minutes or until the rice is tender.
  • Remove the bay leaves. 
  • Garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy!

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