Vegan Paella contains many Mediterranean vegetables; zucchini, onion, garlic, and bell pepper. All are slowly cooked in a simple veggie broth, wine and smokey paprika (Pimentón de la Vera) for a sunny main dish!
Paella is a great dish; you can make it with whatever you feel like; seafood, meat, fish, veggies, etc. The base always stays the same; the Sofrito, which is; frying the onion and garlic with the pulp of tomato in olive oil. You let it reduce until pasty, and voila the base of all paellas! Then grill a topping in the pan first, and the rest will boil in the rice filled with a yummy broth. For this Vegan Paella version, we’ll grill the zucchini first to make it as a topping. I’ve done the zucchini separately because it would become soft and unpleasant in the broth. This way (grilling it at first), you’ll get the crunch and full flavour of the zucchini.
In Spain, they say 1 out of 100 paellas is made with saffron… because of its price. They often use paprika, colouring powder, turmeric or the paste of dried capsicums (Ñora, Choricero and Piquillo). Those four dried peppers are the base of the famous paprika (pimentón). The Ñora and Choricero peppers are sweet and quite similar in taste. The Mediterranean coast uses more the Ñora, which is rounder, while the West of Spain uses the Choricero, a more prolonged pepper. The Piquillo is mildly spicy, and the Guindilla is the spiciest one, giving a hot kick to some paprikas.
Spicy or Smokey?
Moving to Spain, I thought their food, especially paprika, would be spicy. I’ve realized rapidly that it isn’t the case. Spaniards aren’t big fans of spicy things, their traditional food is filled with paprika, but even if they use the spiciest of their paprika, you won’t feel much heat from it.
Pimentón de la Vera
They prefer the smoked paprika, this mildly smokey flavour is quite present in their cuisine. This unique “smokey paprika” called ‘Pimentón de la Vera,’ a D.O. denomination of origin from Extremadura, is a whole new type of spice. The normal pimentón (paprika) dries up in the sun. While the “pimentón de la Vera” dries in smokehouses with oak and acorn wood. The process must take from 10 to 15 days. They are made with different types of peppers to get three different categories; sweet, bittersweet or spicy (dulce, agridulce, picante).
So the paprika world is a whole world of its own in Spain, without talking about elsewhere. Indeed, I recommend trying out the famous “Pimentón de la Vera” for your paellas. It gives this distinct flavour to it as if it is cooked on a campfire (like the original paella). You can find it in European Speciality shops or online.
Other Paellas to Try
Let’s make this Mediterranean veggie paella!
- 1 l vegetable broth
- 400 g Bomba rice
- 100 ml white wine
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 zucchini (cut into sticks)
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 1 red bell pepper (sliced)
- 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
- 1 tomato (cut into 2)
- 1 tbsp Pimenton de la Vera (or paprika)
- 1 tsp rosemary
- salt and pepper
- Start by frying the zucchini in olive oil in the pan (or paella pan*), at medium-high heat; add salt and pepper and reserve.
- Warm up the broth in a pot.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and add olive oil, onion, garlic and salt.
- Let the onion soften for a few minutes (until translucent).
- Add the garlic and grate the inside of the tomato (check the picture).
- Let the tomato juice become a paste, then make a well in the center, add 2 tbsp of olive oil and the rice and mix.
- Add the wine, then the warm broth to cover about 1 cm over the rice (keep some broth in case it dries up), rosemary branch, salt and paprika (Pimenton de la Vera), and mix for a last time.
- Add the bell pepper and let simmer vigorously, medium-high heat for the first 8 minutes.
- Then add the zucchini on top, lower the heat to medium-low and let simmer for another 10 minutes without touching it.
- Check the doneness of the rice when the liquid evaporates, and add broth or water if needed.
- Take off the fire and cover it with a clean kitchen towel for a minute or two to let the rice absorb all that liquid.