In my family we take Meat free Monday quite seriously, it being a religiously auspicious day is one of the main reasons why.
Over time I’ve tried to take some old favourites and find a vegetarian alternative so as to introduce some excitement into meat free meals. One such hit is my wild mushroom paella. I am not one for boring old button mushrooms so as far as possible I always use wild/exotic mushrooms to add a major boost of flavour and texture. However, any mushroom will do if you can’t find wild mushrooms.
Let’s get cooking…
Start with the prep, all the veggies that go into this dish need to chopped and ready to go and likewise the remaining ingredients should ideally be measured out already so that nothing is missed along the way.
First up heat up 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil on a medium-low heat in a flat heavy based pan, I used a cast iron casserole but any pan will do, they key here is that the pan should be as flat as possible. Once the oil is hot throw in the diced onions, diced peppers and shaved fennel, cook until onions are translucent and starting to soften. Next add in the garlic and herbs, I like to pick off the leaves and mince it if you using fresh herbs so that there aren’t any huge pieces of stems floating around. You could also use dried herbs, in that case rub it between your as you sprinkle it into the pan.
Fry this until fragrant, the aroma of the garlic should be unmistakeable. Once this happens add in the tomato paste and paprika and stir around for 1 minute, the tomato paste needs to cook out in order to mellow out the flavour and add a rich undertone.
Add in 2 cups of Arborio or Spanish paella rice and stir until it is coated with all the spices and veg and has toasted a little. Add in the 4 cups of warm stock so as to not drastically reduce the heat in the pan, allow it to simmer for 10 minutes uncovered but stir regularly.
While the rice is bubbling away, heat up a second pan on high heat, melt a little butter in the pan the toss in the mushrooms, minced (or dried) thyme and season with salt and pepper. Sear the mushrooms until it is cooked and golden but be very careful not to burn it.
After the 10 minutes have elapsed, add the mushrooms to the rice along with 1 cup of warm water. Stir to incorporate everything and partially cover. Cook for a further 10 minutes without stirring. There will be a little crust of rice that develops at the bottom of the pan… this is paella gold! It is known as the Soccrat and is one of the key indicators of a good paella. After 10 minutes the rice should be cooked and most of the liquid should be absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Then serve up with big green salad, roasted red peppers and chunks of bread.
Exotic wild mushroom paella
Summery flavours of Spain in this vegetarian paella
• 2 punnets mixed Wild mushrooms, chopped
• 2 cups Arborio or Spanish paella rice
• 1 bell pepper, I used red diced
• 1 large onion, diced
• 1 fennel bulb, shaved
• 2 sprigs rosemary
• 3 sprigs thyme
• 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
• 2 tsp paprika
• 1 tbsp tomato paste
• 4 cups veg stock
• 1 cup water
• Olive oil
- Fry onion, pepper and fennel in a little olive oil until soft
- Add garlic and herbs and once they are fragrant add tomato paste and paprika and fry for 1 minute
- Add 2 cups of paella or Arborio rice and fry
- Once rice nicely covered in all the spices pour in 4 cups of stock, let it simmer uncovered for 10 minutes stirring occasionally
- In a separate pan fry mushrooms in a little butter and thyme until golden, season to taste with salt and pepper
- Add to the rice along with 1 cup of water
- Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes
- Take it off the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving