So, I didn't tell you before, but my husband disappeared before Christmas.
Well, ok. It was a totally above board, tickets booked, travel plans arranged type of deal. He went on a long-awaited trip home to see his family in Spain. But it still felt like he had literally disappeared. You may as well have chopped off my right arm and kept it somewhere for a few weeks, showing it off to me on Skype and in Whatsapp photos, to 'keep me connected' or taunt me... that's how it felt...
And along with my darling husband, what also disappeared was our super Sunday night ritual....paella, his style! His mum's secret recipe with his Aussie twist! Aargh! Alone without him or our tradition!
Words cannot describe the flavours that man can create with his precious recipe, and I don't dare to emulate it.
He heard from a friend once that paella literally comes from 'para ella'... paraella... paella! I like it! It was traditionally cooked by the husband for the wife on Sundays, as a way of thanking her and giving her a chance to put her feet up! While we aren't quite so traditional in terms of breaking down the household chores - are you kidding?! - my hubby and I have definitely made a tradition with him cooking me this beautiful meal every Sunday evening, and I love it. He also enjoys a glass of red wine and a loud yarn with his family while he does it, so he infuses it with full Spanish vitality!
I managed to fill my paella gap for a little while during his absence, with Christmas feasts and family dinners to satisfy me. On my return to Sydney and approaching my first Sunday night alone though....the tension got to me. How can I survive a Sunday night without his delicious, authentic Spanish feast? Read: I was missing him terribly.
So, resolute, I decided to create my own. I didn't want to even attempt his recipe, so I decided to do a little background research into the general way paellas are put together. I also reflected on the process I saw my husband follow. I then thought about the ingredients I would like in a paella, and I came up with my own 'Ruth's authentic vegetarian Paella' recipe! It combines some delicious foods and flavours, and I used brown rice so it is super wholesome too.
It turned out....really well! I was surprised at how good it was actually! The only issue was that I didn't consider the measurements at all. I almost made enough to feed 15 yogis about to break their fast....not so great if you're chilling at home, husband-less.
Here's a peak of my creation:
Anyway, look, try it for yourself! Here is the recipe below. Give it a whirl and chop and change it how you like to add your own twist! I'd love to hear what you think of it.
* These ingredients will end up feeding 3-4 people very well. It's up to you how much rice you add, and it will also depend on the size of your pan.
- 2 tbs good olive oil
- 1 brown onion - diced
- 6 cloves of garlic - finely chopped can't have too much garlic in this!
- 1 red capsicum - diced
- A few florets of broccoli - just shave the tops in and finely chop a little of the stalk
- 1 tomato - chopped roughly
- A small can of green peas
- A can of chopped tomatoes
- A few sticks of celery to your liking - sliced or diced, your choice
- 1 heaped tsp of paprika
- 5 to 10 saffron threads or a dash of saffron powder
- A twist of ground black pepper
- A litre of vegetable stock
- 1 cup of long grain brown rice - add more depending on how many people you're feeding.
- A Paellera!! - I'm afraid if you want to be truly authentic, you really do need a paellera - paella pan. They are not too expensive, and they are worth it for the way it cooks the paella. I've seen recipes with non-stick frying pans. Your call, but consider it like eating pasta without good Italian cheese on it, just not quite the same ;-)
Ok, so getting the flavour going early is very important. Trust me, I see the intensity on my hubby's face at this stage of the process!
It starts with the onion and garlic in the beginning and builds up. It's important you give the vegetables some time to absorb the flavours, without burning.
Step 1: Heat the oil and add the onions and garlic, cooking until soft.
Step 2: Add the paprika, stirring through quickly, then add the chopped capsicum and celery. Allow time for the flavours to mix in and absorb.
Step 3: Make a well in the centre of the pan and add the chopped tomatoes. Mix through for a few minutes.
Step 4: Add about half of the stock to 1 cm from the top of the pan and add the saffron. Allow some time to simmer.
Step 4: Start to sprinkle in some of the rice, without letting the pan overflow. If you don't use all the rice, don't worry. Just make sure it's evenly distributed and covered by liquid. You can give a gentle nudge to the vegetables to allow the rice to distribute through the pan a little, but there's no need to really mix it.
Step 5: Allow the rice to simmer gently and keep adding stock as necessary - you should see bubbles and simmering (like the photo above) for most of the time, until it fully absorbs towards the end.
Step 6: Lastly, sprinkle the peas over the top and allow some time, 5 mins or so, for them to absorb the flavours. No need to stir! Grind a little black pepper over it all at the very end.
Note: If your cooking plate does not distribute heat evenly (electric for example), you may need to turn the pan occasionally to ensure even cooking.
With brown rice you will need to wait a bit longer for the rice to cook. With gentle simmering it could take up to 30 minutes. It is important that you DON'T stir the dish at all. This is the beauty of the paella, getting the balance between having the absorbed, unstirred rice, without over-cooking or burning. Test the rice as you go to see when it is ready.
* Tip! You might end up with a kind of dark, golden crust on the bottom of your pan - yay, good for you! It's not burnt, or at least it shouldn't be burnt. It's called soccarat (sometimes spelled socarrat), and is from the rice on the bottom. It has a beautiful caramelised flavour, and is considered the pinnacle of a good paella. Doesn't always happen though, so good luck with it!
Whether you get the soccarat or not, you should end up with a seriously delish wholesome meal to share with your family. Here's mine below:
I'd love to see how your paella turns out - let me know! And remember, cooking is just for fun. Don't take it too seriously, and try experimenting with ingredients and methods to find what suits you!