• Clare McElhatton

Fennel Paella





A plant-based paella that may not be authentic but is delicious, nonetheless. A great dish for using up odds and ends of vegetables- they can be simply added as a topping or cooked with the rice.


Serves 2 - 4, just alter the amount of rice used.

· Paella or risotto rice, 90g per person

· Water. About 600ml for 2 portions, 1L for 4 but this will vary.

· Vegetable oil & vegan butter or dairy butter

· 1 bulb of fennel

· 1 medium onion

· 2 cloves of garlic

· Tomato puree, 2 tsp

· Dry Vermouth (optional) 125ml

· Vegetable Stock Powder 1 tbsp or 2 stock cubes

· A generous handful of mix of fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon.

· Saffron (optional). A pinch.

· Turmeric (adds a nice yellow colour without using too much expensive saffron!)

· Seaweed flakes. 1 tbsp. Or use fish stock.

· Lemon juice from ½ lemon

· ½ tin chickpeas (optional)

· Salt

Toppings


· Roasted peppers (from a jar, or fresh)

· Olives

· Artichokes (from a jar)

· Grilled or steamed vegetables (courgettes, broccoli, green beans, peas)


Either cook the toppings separately and add to the cooked rice, or cook directly on the rice near the end of its cooking (with a lid on)


Method

1. Wash, then cut the fennel in half. Cut one half into thin slices and coat in lemon juice and a pinch of salt and keep for later. Dice the other half finely. Also dice 1 onion.

2. Start a stock using the unused bits of fennel (the root and stems mostly), in a medium pan, covered with cold water. Add seaweed, fresh herbs, 1 tbsp of stock powder, ½ lemon (with juiced squeezed out onto the fennel) and 1 tsp of turmeric.

3. Bring the stock to the boil then leave on a low simmer while the rice is prepared. Keep it on a low heat.

4. In a large frying pan, sauté the fennel and onion on a low heat in a little vegetable oil. Add the garlic, either crushed (and picked out later) or roughly chopped.

5. In a small dish, add a little lemon juice or vinegar to a pinch of saffron (if using). This will bring out the yellow colour.

6. Cook the onions and fennel until they are translucent and just beginning to go brown. This recipe benefits from a little more fat , so add any vegan butter (such as Vegan Block) or regular butter at this stage. About 1 tablespoon.

7. Add 2 teaspoons of tomato puree and cook until it has deepened in colour. Add the saffron liquid too.

8. Add the rice and stir so its coated in all the fat, onions, tomato puree and saffron.

9. If using, add the dry vermouth to the rice and cook until there is no longer an odour of alcohol.

10. Spread the rice evenly around the pan. Add chickpeas at this point if using.

11. Once the rice has soaked up most of the liquid, add 2/3 of the stock (straining through a sieve into the pan). Don’t stir!

12. Leave on a low heat, with a lid, for 30 minutes. Check occasionally. Add more stock if the pan looks dry but the rice has not cooked through. If the rice has almost cooked but there is too much liquid, remove the lid.

13. Don’t stir or move the rice while it cooks. The pan may need rotating on the hob occasionally, depending on how evenly the heat is distributed.

14. After the rice has cooked for 30 minutes, it should be soft and almost all the liquid absorbed (but not all of it- we don’t want dry rice!).

15. Now turn up to a medium heat and cook with the lid off. If cooking vegetables on the rice, add towards the end of step 14.

16. As the rice cooks, a sticky caramelised layer should form at the base of the pan (this is good news). To tell when this has formed, it should smell sweet and caramelised but check with a spoon just to be sure.

17. The top of the paella should have darker, almost crispy edges and a ‘skin’ forming on the top. It’s done when the holes formed by bubbling liquid get larger and more stable.

18. Add the fresh lemony fennel from earlier and any other toppings (such as roasted peppers or olives) and serve.

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Manchester Urban Diggers are urban community market gardeners based in Greater Manchester where we are making spaces for people to grow food.

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