The first point of order must be my very English apology for employing the word “skillet”. My dear British chums: I know it is awfully americentric of me, but I just bought a brand new cast iron pan and my cup literally overfloweth with cast iron joy.
You see- can I make a confession? It involves murder. PAN MURDER. I am a pan murderer. I’m not sure whether I have an unconscious hatred of pans, or if I carry a terrible curse, but I kill more pans than houseplants these days.
C bought me the loveliest ceramic pan for my birthday last July and, yes, I’ve already managed to render it useless. I confess. I murdered another pan.
So when I went a-lookin’ for an appropriate candidate to replace the latest victim of my cookwaricide, I got to reading about cast iron cookware, and apparently, so long as I keep up with some basic maintenance, this pan will live longer than ME. It also looks like it’d be very useful as a weapon, so there’s a plus.
I scoured the interwebz for exciting ‘skillet’ recipes, and pinned plenty to my ‘To Cook’ Pinterest board, but I decided that my first experiment would be a ‘shroomy paella.
I did quite a bit of Spanish style cooking back in the summer of 2011 in order to get in the mood for a two week holiday in the south of Spain later that year. I attempted a paella or two back then, but it was quite a half hearted effort, so I’ve been educating myself in the way of sofrito and bomba and I hope this will be a slightly more authentic version (albeit a vegan one with wild rice and no saffron LOLLY LOLZ).
Bomba (traditional paella rice) seems not to be too faddy; apparently it can absorb three times its own volume without breaking down, and all while the grains remain separate. I definitely wouldn’t achieve that with my standard basics 40p-per-kilo white rice, but I found a lovely bag of organic wild rice on the cheap today, so I thought I’d give that a try. Bewarned though: wild rice takes a looooooong time to cook, so I’ve used extra stock in this recipe. If you’re using a rice that cooks quickly (in less than 25 minutes) then reduce the stock amount by a 1/2 cup, or by 1 cup if it cooks in 10 minutes.
If you can afford to splurge on saffron then by all means do; it’s a very traditional part of the dish and I’m sure it tastes just super!
You can scale this recipe up if you’re serving more than two. A genuine proper paella dish has tiny dimples at the bottom to allow the rice to steam and for a crusty bottom (LULZ) called the socarrat to form, but here I am using a skillet (frying pan innit). Obviously if you have access to a paella dish then go ahead and use it! The recipe should still be good to go.
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed/diced
- 1 large red pepper, sliced lengthways
- 2 large, fat, ripe tomatoes (or a tin of chopped if necessary)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 (or 3) tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, if you want it hot!)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 150g pack of shiitake or oyster mushrooms (chopped if very large)
- 3 cups vegetable stock (reduce if using fast-cook rice, see above)
- 2/3 cup wild rice, rinsed
- fresh parsley, chopped
- lemon wedges, to garnish
First, my paella loving chums, we make the sofrito. This is a thick, dark tomato paste that forms the base of the paella. I’ve used fresh tomatoes because we’ve been receiving lots of big juicy ripe tomatoes in our veg box recently, but you could always swap these out for a tin of chopped tomatoes if needed.
If you are using fresh tomatoes, plunge them into boiling water for about 30 seconds, then retreive and rinse under the cold tap. The skins should come off easily, and then you can chop them up.
Heat some olive oil in the pan, and add the onion, garlic, red pepper and skinned (or tin of chopped) tomatoes as well as as the tomato paste. Add the paprika and flour (and cayenne pepper if using). Over a high heat, continue to stir until a thick tomato paste forms.
Add the peas and mushrooms and mix. Then, add the vegetable stock and stir well.
Sprinkle the rice into the pan, spreading it evenly. Take care not to stir too much. If you haven’t evenly spread the rice, use a spoon to move it around gently.
Boil for 10 minutes, and then reduce heat and simmer until the rice is cooked.
Serve with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley and a lemon wedge.
- For a more seafood-esque experience you could add chopped king oyster mushroom stems (aka ‘vegan scallops‘).
- There are lots of super vegan chorizos out there these days, so you could add some sliced chorizo when you add the mushrooms. (Or, make your own!)
- Other vegetables commonly added are green beans, olives, asparagus and artichokes. I’m also told that beans (lima beans or ‘tavella’ white beans) are common in traditional Valencian paella (its regional home).
Not surprisingly, I didn’t sample any ‘proper’ paella while I was in Spain; all were laden with seafood and/or meat. The raw ingredients out there were just beautiful though: fat, red tomatoes; huge red and orange peppers; juicy green olives; deliciously sweet oranges. Cooking vegan really wasn’t tough at all. And as the rain (AND SNOW!) falls in Manchester this springtime I haven’t quite been transported back to Andalucia, but this will certainly do for now.
Do you have any favourite ‘holiday food’ memories?