When the leaves start falling off the trees, our thoughts and stomachs naturally turn to meals that sustain and satisfy us.
For meat-eaters that could be any number of casseroles or stews but vegans and vegetarians don’t have to miss out on tasty, filling and nutritious dinners.
This paella contains nuts, which are a valuable source of protein, and brown rice which will keep your tummy full and happy. And the whole dish has plenty of vitamins, minerals and fibre that’s so important at keeping us healthy when the weather gets cold.
I first cooked this as a 13-year-old when I found it in a book by Sarah Brown called The Vegetarian Kitchen. I’ve adapted it over the years so it’s a bit quicker and added courgettes which I love. I also changed the flavours because I love smoked paprika. The original recipe is spicier with cumin and turmeric. You could add finely diced aubergine or squash or just add another pepper, but I like a variety of veggies for colour, texture and flavour.
It’s best to use brown rice here because it has a more robust texture than basmati. But if you’re not a fan, then add whatever rice you like. If you’d prefer it to be more paella-like, add bomba rice instead.
It’s very easy to make and if you’re newly vegan or living away from home in student accommodation it’s an ideal choice because it requires minimal equipment and a batch will keep you going for several days.
Cashew paellaPrint Recipe
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 big handfuls cashew nuts
- 5 sticks of celery, washed and finely diced
- 2 peppers, any colour you like
- 2 big courgettes
- 1 heaped teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- pinch of hot smoked paprika (optional)
- 5 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
- 1 tin tomatoes
- 250g brown rice
- 600 mls vegetable stock
- Put a slosh of oil into a heavy-based, high-sided frying pan and when it’s warm add the onion and cook over a low flame for a few minutes until it’s soft and translucent. You don’t want them to be brown as it will make the paella taste bitter.
- Add the finely diced celery, peppers and courgettes (or any other vegetables you may wish to substitute) and cook them for a few more minutes, keeping the heat low. Stir occasionally so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- When the vegetables are soft and look nearly cooked, add the garlic, paprika and oregano. Stir round for a minute and then add the rice. Stir that in too so it’s well coated in the oil and incorporated with the vegetables. Add the tin of tomatoes and the stock and bring the heat up.
- Break the tomatoes up with the back of your spoon or spatula so they are in small pieces spread throughout the dish. When it reaches the boil, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.
- Let it cook like this for around 20 minutes, giving the rice an occasional gentle stir so it doesn’t stick, but try to leave it. If it looks like the rice has absorbed all of the liquid but it’s still hard to bite on, add some water from a recently boiled kettle.
- While the rice is cooking, put a separate pan on a medium heat and when the pan is hot (hold your hand a couple of centimetres above it) add the cashews. Don’t add any oil, you’re dry-toasting them.
- It’s very important not to take your eyes off them for even a short time because they can go from glorious toasted golden brown to burnt and inedible in seconds.
- Keep the nuts moving in the pan so they toast evenly and when they are golden or light brown, take them off the heat and into a bowl to cool. Don’t leave them in the pan because they’ll carry on cooking and will likely over-cook.
- When the 20 minutes cooking time is up for the rice, taste it and see if the rice is soft. If it isn’t, keep it on the heat for a couple more minutes until it’s done. If it needs more liquid, add it a splosh at a time.
- The texture of the finished dish shouldn’t be too wet, the rice should have absorbed the liquid, but still have a bit of moisture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then add the toasted cashews.
- Serve hot with crusty bread and salad leaves dressed with oil and vinegar or just by itself in a bowl in front of the telly.