Indulge on this meat free vegan style paella. A combination of seasoning, herbs spices and vegetables all prepared on a gigantic paella pan. I'm talking about lip smacking, bold Caribbean and Spanish aromatic flavours all in one serving.
There's nothing these days that won't stop me from doing a Caribbean rendition of another culture's cuisine.
I also thought it would be the perfect opportunity to showcase something with a tropical theme especially during the cold winter months.
I hope this Caribbean vegan paella dish, where the combination of Spain mixed with the Caribbean islands will bring some sunshine (and vitamin D) into your life.
It's a delicious, mouthwatering one pan recipe that really comes together with all the herbs and spices that are used.
Although it's vegan friendly, meat eaters will hardly notice there's no meat thanks to the chunky vegetables which are used.
Spanish food is one of the most popular type of cuisines here in the UK, there's practically a Spanish restaurant in every corner of each city.
You can also find Greek, Italian, Indian, Cantonese and even Thai in high numbers, notice I didn't include Caribbean food that's because Island food doesn't have a monopoly like the aforementioned.
The misrepresentation of Caribbean food
As I've said before Caribbean food isn't widely understood, what people think they know about island food is usually the stereotypical theme of a coconut, pineapple with a large piece of jerk chicken to boot.
Although I'm admittedly saddened by the mis-informed definition of Caribbean food I do envision positive changes with food bloggers such as myself educating the massive about authentic Caribbean cooking.
I strongly believe by reversing the stereotypical notion of Caribbean food, not only will this fully inform people of it's true meaning but also help to globalise our cuisines in a fair manner (rant over).
What is paella?
Let's talk about PAELLA-ELLA! Paella is a popular rice dish which originates from a city called Valencia in Spain and is regarded by Spaniards as the national dish.
There are different types of paella - seafood, valencian (the acclaimed original), meat, mixed, vegan... you name it and it's in there - rabbit, snail, artichokes, green beans, mussels, prawns.
On the other hand, a vegan paella is basically a meat free rice medley consisting of an array of vegetables, all cooked in one pan.
"The most important ingredient in vegan paella is the bomba rice"
Irrespective of the style of paella one unchangeable foundation for this dish is the bomba rice.
Bomba rice is Spain's premium rice and essential for absorbing the broth, it absorbs three times the volume of broth than regular rice yet remains firm and holds up quite well.
There IS no substitute for bomba rice, with that being said, do purchase the closest thing to it which is short grain brown rice bomba rice. This rice is GI Index friendly, though it is very difficult to obtain.
I'm a huge fan of revamping traditional with a modern twist along with doing some fusion dishes too. A bit like what I did with this Sweet Potato Omelette.
How to cook vegan paella (Caribbean style)
You will find a number of commonly used Caribbean herbs/spices/condiments pop up in this recipe - cinnamon, allspice (pimento), lime, scotch bonnet, thyme, and bay leaf - Since bomba rice absorbs most of the flavour from the stock.
I tempered the cinnamon, bayleaf, thyme and allspice just before adding the stock followed by the bomba rice.
The idea is to release the flavour of the spices during tempering so they infuse the vegetable stock which is then absorbed by the bomba rice (this is where the magic occurs).
It wouldn't be true vegan Caribbean food without inviting some pumpkin and sweet potato to the party, all of which are added to the traditional paella pan.
If you want to step your paella recipe up a notch with legumes like some Spanish beans then go right ahead and add them too.
When all of the vegetables are added to the Paella pan (see the ingredients list for the rest) fold everything together ONCE! YES I SAID ONCE...What you are trying to achieve is the "socarrat" that crisp crust towards the bottom of the pan.
Can I make Caribbean/vegan paella without a paella pan?
Yes, you can achieve the same results without using a paella pan so you don't necessarily need to invest in one. However, that crispy crusty at the bottom of the pan makes it more traditional.
If you have an old pan/skillet, simply use that to yield the socarrat. Alternatively, just use a regular frying pan if you are unable to use either of the given options.
What if I can't find saffron threads, what's the alternative?
Saffron can be pricey and sometimes hard to obtain, so use a teaspoon of ground turmeric instead.
How long does it take to cook the paella?
It take roughly 25-30 minutes to cook. You can fast track the prep process by chopping the vegetables overnight so you can just jump right ahead with cooking the very next day
What other rice dishes do you recommend?
Reasons to make this recipe
- It's a meat free alternative to the traditional paella
- It's the most famous rice dish in Spain with a vegan Caribbean twist
- This recipe is suitable for home freezing
- Vegan and gluten free lifestyle
- low fat and high in complex carbs for that full feeling
More one pan/pot recipes to try
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Vegan Paella ( Caribbean Paella)
- 200 g 1 cup of brown short grain bomba rice
- 1 small yellow bell pepper sliced
- 1 small red bell pepper sliced
- 2 ½ cups of vegetable stock
- 200 g 1 cup sweet green peas
- ½ teaspoon of saffron threads
- 5 sprigs of thyme stems removed
- 1 red onion sliced
- 2 scallion chopped
- 100 g of mushrooms sliced
- 200 g 1 cup pumpkin, cubed & peeled
- 200 g 1 cup sweet potato, cubed & peeled
- 4 pimento seeds ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- ¼ teaspoon of paprika smoked or regular
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 scotch bonnet whole
- himalayan pink salt according to taste
- 1 lime
- *coconut oil
- Combine the vegetable stock with the saffron threads in a saucepan, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes and set aside.
- Meanwhile heat your paella pan on medium heat (can use an old skillet) with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil then temper the cinnamon stick and pimento (allspice) until the aroma is released, once an aroma is achieved add the bay leaf and continue to temper for another 30 seconds before sauteing the garlic, scallion and red onions for 2 minutes.
- Proceed to add the bell peppers then cook until softened, this should take 3-5 minutes in total.
- Fold the pumpkin, mushrooms and sweet potatoes pieces into the pan, don't forget to maneuver/rotate the pan during cooking.
- Season the entire pan with the thyme, black pepper and your desired amount of pink salt - 1 teaspoon worth was suffice for me.
- Add the bomba rice along with the paprika, use a wooden spoon to fully coat/combine the bomba rice with the seasoning and mix through.
- Gradually add the saffron infused stock to the paella, start by adding ⅓ of the stock leaving a 3-4 minute interval while the rice absorbs the first portion of liquid.....STIR ONCE ONLY!
- Then add the remaining stock to the pan and leave uncovered for 5 minutes.
- Finally sprinkle the green peas along with the scotch bonnet to the pan before covering with foil to steam for 10 minutes. During the given time the socarrat will form quite nicely.
- After 10 minutes turn off the heat and leave to settle for 5 minutes before removing the foil to serve.
- Don't forgot to squeeze some lime over the top and garnish with further thyme (remove the bay leaf and cinnamon too).