Whether you’re gathered around a campfire, collected in front of a brazier in winter or having a BBQ in the summertime, being sociable is as important as the food. The ideal meal is going to be quick to prepare and involve minimal mess, but still taste great. I decided to turn to my larder for inspiration. My easy store cupboard vegetable paella ticks all the boxes, a one pan dish that’s also served in its cookware and it’s ideal for sharing with family and friends. While you can use an oven to make a vegetable paella, preparing slow food outdoors, especially over fire, is an opportunity to create an extra special experience when gathering with loved ones.
Paella originated in the fields of Valencia, agricultural workers would add foraged ingredients to the paerella (paella pan) with rice. Rather than foraging in fields (which you could also do too), select from your favourite store cupboard staples and use this vegetable paella recipe as a template. While a good flavoured stock is central to creating a great flavoured rice, consider the taste, texture and even colours of your vegetable selection which will decorate the top of your finished paella.
Easy Store Cupboard Vegetable Paella
This recipe was made in a 32cm paella pan, and full to the brim. I have listed suggested ingredients as a template, change or adjust to your taste, see the list of alternatives and optional extras below for inspiration.
Serves 4-8 people as a main, side or tapas.
- Bulb of garlic
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp hot paprika
- 1 or 2 red onions, thinly sliced
- 1 red pepper sliced
- tin of cherry tomatoes
- button mushrooms
- tin of chickpeas
- 2 cups spanish bomba or Calasparra rice
- 1-1.5 litres of full flavoured stock
- Green Olives
Alternatives and optional extras
- You could use jarred roasted red peppers, fresh green or even yellow ones
- I love red onions, but you can use brown onions or shallots
- Instead of chickpeas add flageolet, turtle beans, brown lentils or your favourite tinned legume
- Tinned mushrooms or sliced portobello mushrooms
- Your favourite olive or add capers or a salty kick
- Smoked paprika or chilli flakes for some heat
- If Bomba or Calaspara rice isn’t available you can use Arborio, medium grain or even sushi rice (Remember that a short grain brown rice will take longer to cook)
- Depending on the season, zucchini, eggplant or fresh tomatoes
- Chopped greens, herbs or foraged finds
Slice, dice, or chop your chosen vegetables. It’s ideal if you don’t need a knife to eat your vegetable paella.
If using tinned cherry tomatoes, drain the liquid into a large measuring jug to add to the vegetable stock.
Drain chickpeas and artichokes, quarter artichoke, pit olives if necessary.
Clean mushrooms, they can braised for extra flavour. To braise – combine a cup of red wine with a cup or stock, bay leaf, thyme and fresh or roasted garlic. Arrange mushrooms, stems removed gill side up in a small roasting dish and pour the brain liquid over them. Braise for 30-45 minutes @160ºC.
Top the saved tomato juice up with vegetable stock, you will need at least 1.5 litres. Taste, you can add herbs or seasonings like soy sauce, tamari or mushroom ketchup for a flavourful stock. Stir in the hot paprika. Taste and adjust if needed.
On your chosen cooking heat source – campfire, brazier, or BBQ make sure you have a grill between the coals and the paella pan. Place your paella pan on the grill pour in olive oil, when it sizzles thyme and a head of garlic with the top trimmed off. Use tongs to remove the thyme and garlic after 5-10 minutes and the oil in infused. Add sliced onion and red peppers cook until they begin to colour then add rice. Stir until coated in oil then pour in 1 litre of the vegetable stocking stir quickly before arranging the ingredients around the whole garlic bulb. DO NOT stir after this point, this is how you create the soccarat – the crispy bits on the bottom synonymous with a paella.
Depending how well the fire temperature is managed will determine cooking time and how fast the stock absorbs and evaporates, this could be 30 minutes to an hour. Scoop out rice and taste after half an hour. Add more stock as needed, when it is nearly ready cover for 10-15 minutes to let the fluids absorb and finish cooking the surface.
Like eating outdoors?
If you also enjoy cooking and eating outdoors you might like to try a crispy potato galette with asparagus. A wedge of a potato and red onion tortilla or plant-based kuku are perfect picnic fare or a hot thermos of soup and freshly baked focaccia for a winter road trip. If you fancy trying some foraged ingredients, bake a wild green pie or add some onion weed to a summer salsa.