Meat Free Mondays ~ Vegetarian Paella with sautéed tofu

Vegetarian Paella with sautéed tofu

paella 1

Una receta fácil que se origina en España! Paella is an ancient Spanish rice dish that originated in its modern form in the mid-nineteenth century near Albufera lagoon, a coastal lagoon in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. ‘Paella’ is a Valencian-Catalan word which derives from the old french word paelle for pan, which is also akin to the modern french poêle. Cooking and serving from a specialized shallow paella pan is all part of the theatre of the dish. In fact, the recipe became so popular that in 1840 a local Spanish newspaper first used the word paella to refer to the recipe rather than the pan! According to tradition in Valencia, paella is cooked over an open fire, fueled by orange and pine branches along with pine cones. Ummm, sounds as if it would smell divine!


Somewhere along the line of it’s history, saffron was used to colour the paella yellow. Here I’m using turmeric, one of Nature’s most powerful healers. It’s an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial and antioxidant. It’s a liver detoxifier, a pain killer and helps to metabolize fat. And it’s less expensive than saffron. Who wouldn’t use it?!

1 cup white rice; 2 cups boiling water; 1 tea spoon turmeric; good quality olive oil; a pinch of salt; a tea spoon of ground black pepper; 1 red onion, peeled, quartered & chopped; 200gm block of firm tofu, patted dry & cubed; 4 artichoke hearts, drained & sliced; 6 pieces sun dried tomatoes, chopped; 2 table spoons capers*; 1 table spoon pesto; 100 gms frozen peas; 100 gms sweet corn; handful of rocket; 5 fresh asparagus spears, blanched, or a preserved version, drained; juice of 1 lemon; 1 lemon, quartered

In a saucepan, bring the water to the boil and once boiling add the rice, stir, add the teaspoon of turmeric, stir again then cover and turn off the heat. Leave to cook and expand in the saucepan. In a large shallow paella pan (if you have one, or a frying pan if not), gently heat about 3 table spoons of olive oil. Season with the salt & pepper then toss in the red onion and tofu. Sauté for 5 minutes, tossing frequently to brown on all sides. Add all the other ingredients, except the lemon. Allow to simmer together for a further 5 minutes before adding the asparagus and lemon juice. Turn off the heat. Push all the ingredients to one side of the pan, tip in the cooked rice and gently fold in with the vegetables & tofu. Serve in the paella pan with the lemon wedges ~ et voila, buena appetite, as the Spanish would say!

As an option, try adding shavings of a vegetarian hard cheese, or wedges of hard boiled free range eggs.

*Capers are un-ripened buds from a small bush native to the middle east & mediterranean regions. Fresh blossoms are sun dried then pickled in brine to bring out their distinctive lemony flavour. They’re a key addition to this recipe for tangy flavour.

Bon Appétit!

Copies of Nikki’s recipe book are available from Amazon or signed from Under The Lime Tree


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