Now I have a lovely cast iron Paella Pan, and so this green vegetable version is made a bit more authentically than my previous recipes.
After Le Creuset gave me a tremendous customer experience with a casserole pot I had trouble with, my loyalty deepened and I added this beautiful enamelled cast iron Paella Pan to my collection.
And the first paella I made in it is this green vegetable version. This fills my pan, which is 34cm in diameter. And makes about 4 servings.
4 cups vegetable stock (2 cubes worth, or 3-4 tsp my friend Jenny’s homemade stock paste)
2 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin, just ordinary)
1 medium red onion, diced
3 shallots, white and green parts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped (or grated, if you want to remove the skins)
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dried turmeric or a good pinch of saffron threads
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbsp fresh
(or replace the paprika, turmeric, saffron and thyme with 5 tsp of La Dalia Espicias – paella spices from theessentialingredient.com)
salt to taste (1 tsp, for my taste) and extra if using low-salt vegetable stock
1 1/4 cup of Calasparra rice (authentic Spanish rice, also from theessentialingredient.com)
2 small bay leaves
1/2 leek, sliced
4-5 brussels sprouts, sliced or wedged into quarters
1 large head of broccoli (or 2 small heads) chopped into 2-3cm florets
1 cup frozen peas
other greens, if desired (like a fistful of green beans diagonally sliced, or a cup shredded Tuscan kale)
lemon wedges, if desired
Heat up the vegetable stock and keep it warm.
Warm the olive oil in the paella pan, on the wok burner’s low setting. Then saute the onions until lightly bronzed and softened. Add the shallots and garlic and keep frying for a few minutes.
Add the tomatoes, paprika, turmeric or saffron, thyme and salt. Cook until it becomes dark red and thick. This is the sofrito, the base for the paella’s flavour.
Add the rice, and toss for a minute or so until it is spice-coated, and keep going until it becomes white and opaque.
Poor in the warm vegetable stock to cover everything, and add the bay leaves. Stir it together, and reduce it to a not-too-slow simmer. Lay over the leek, brussels sprouts, broccoli, peas, and any other green vegetables if using. The steam will cook them from here, so don’t mix them in!
Absolutely stop stirring now, and let it simmer for another 10-20 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and the soccarrada can form. Chef Miguel Maestre says:
The height is the most important element about the pan as the rice must have maximum contact with the bottom of the pan to achieve the soccarrada [the crust at the bottom of the pan]. The Spanish say that the rice should be only as thick as the width of one finger and spread in an even layer.
If the rice dries out before it’s cooked, pour over more hot water or stock and cook for another minute or two. But I find the liquid-to-rice proportion above works perfectly.
After the rice on top is cooked, turn up the heat of the wok burner to high for a minute or two, to finish off the soccarrada. The rice will sizzle or crackle a bit, and there should be no sign of liquid left.
Turn off the heat, and cover it with a lid or clean tea towel (my favourite) or aluminium foil. Let it continue to steam itself under its cover for 5 to 10 minutes, so the soccarrada can release from the pan, and the vegetables finish cooking too.
Serve with lemon wedges.