I take classic recipes from around the world and put my own spin on it. This recipe is inspired by the tasty Spanish rice dish called Paella, it’s unbelievably delicious and has layers of flavors and texture which makes it so festive.
The original Paella is a sea food dish. Since I’m a vegetarian I made a delicious paella with a ton of veggies and aromatic Indian spices, it is very similar to our Indian rice dish called Biryani.
Whenever I have some time on my hands I want to cook something really elaborate and festive, since this was a long weekend for us I decided to make a South Indian style vegetable paella. Making this dish might look like a long process but it doesn’t take more than 30 to 40 minutes from the prep to the finished dish.
The Tasty Trio – Paella/Biryani, Onion Raita and Potato Chips
Step # 1 – Make the herb paste (cilantro pesto)
- Coriander leaves/ cilantro (or) Parsley – 1 small bunch (Leaves and stems)
- Grated coconut or cashews – 1 tablespoon
- Garlic cloves – 2
- Red Chili powder – 2 teaspoons ( mild or hot )
- Paprika ( Kashmiri chili powder) – 2 teaspoons
- Green chilies – 2 (optional)
- Tomato paste – 1 teaspoon (or) lemon juice – 1/2 teaspoon
- Garam masala – 1 teaspoon (or) Any spice mix of your choice.
- Put all the above ingredients in a blender and grind it into a coarse paste. Do not add water.
- Remember to reserve a little bit of chopped cilantro for Garnish
Instead of Garam masala you can also use spice mixes like All spice, Cajun spice, curry powder, paella spice etc.
Using fresh, canned, diced or puréed tomatoes will make your rice soggy. If you don’t have the paste you can just use 1/2 teaspoon of lime or lemon juice which gives the same tanginess as the tomato paste.
Step # 2- Toast the rice
- Basmati rice (Or) Any type of long grain rice – 1 cup
- Bay leaves – 2
- Cinnamon stick – 2
- Cloves – 4
- Cardamom pods – 2
- Star anise – 1
- Fennel seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Saffron – few strands ( soaked in warm water )
- Water or diluted thin coconut milk – 2 cups
- Salt – 1 1/2 teaspoons
- Oil and butter for sautéing
- Mixed vegetables – 2 cups (diced carrot, potato, beans, peas and corn)
- You can also use chickpeas, kidney beans, edamame etc along with the diced veggies
- Heat oil in a broad pan, add a slice of butter
- Now add the spices and slightly toast them
- Then add the rice and toast it until it gets a pearl white color.
- Add the mixed veggies and sauté them for a minute
Step # 3 – cook the rice
- Add the soaked saffron with the liquid.
- Add 2 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of salt and mix it well.
- Cover it with a lid, keep it in a low flame until the rice it cooked.
- You can also pressure cook it for 2 whistles.
Use a spatula or a fork and gently mix and fluff up the rice. Do not break the rice.
Take a big platter and spread the rice, cover it with aluminum foil to keep it warm.
Paella is all about building interesting layers of flavor and texture, the best way to get that texture is by adding pan/ oven roasted vegetables.
My kids love cauliflower and broccoli. You can use any veggies of your choice
- Cut them into florets, wash and drain
- Put them in a big bowl
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and 1 teaspoon of chili powder
- Mix it well and keep it aside.
- Heat the pan add a little bit of oil
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds, toast it
- Add the florets, Mix it well, close it tightly with a lid.
- Keep it in a low flame.
- No need to add water, The steam cooks it so quickly, it doesn’t take more than 2 minutes. so keep an eye on it otherwise it gets mushy
- take the lid out and keep it in a low flame until it gets the golden color.
Do this while the rice is cooking so both will be ready at the same time.
You can also use the oven roast veggies like fennel bulb, artichoke hearts, asparagus, red potatoes, Brussel sprouts etc ..whatever you have in hand.
Put them in a sheet pan, coat it with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in the oven until it gets the golden color. It just tastes amazing.
Step # 5 – Toast some nuts
Adding Roasted nuts instantly makes any dish festive, and it adds an extra layer of crunch which makes it taste so amazing.
Cashews roasted in ghee is so creamy and buttery, adding it to the paella/Biryani at the end is like a finishing touch to all our Indian dishes. The ghee adds an amazing aroma to the dish.
You can also toast some almonds or pine nuts in some butter and add it to the rice, it tastes amazing too.
Step # 6 – Assemble the Paella
Spread the roasted veggies on top of the cooked rice, add the toasted nuts, and garnish it with some cilantro or parsley.
Look at that! Your yummy paella is ready, isn’t that appetizing?
I always wonder why paella is cooked and served in a big pan or a platter. This way, it cooks evenly and when you serve them every scoop gets the right amount of veggies and nuts which makes everyone happy.
I like to serve it with onion raitha/pachadi. Which is thinly sliced onions soaked in a creamy beaten yogurt sauce with a little bit of salt, sugar and garnished with sliced green chili and cilantro. This is such an amazing combination, the cool yogurt pairs very well with the spicy paella.
To add an extra layer of crunch I serve it some crispy potato chips too.
Agreed, it involves a little bit of work but it’s worth it! So whenever there is a special occasion or you have some time on your hands do try this dish, it just tastes so delicious!