Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

I freely and without prejudice admit that I have a bit of a fetish for Spanish culture, people and food. The Spanish are a passionate, revolutionary people and their food is true reflection of this: it’s heady, full of flavour, colourful. 

I remember my first paella as clear as day. I was seventeen, visiting my friend Maria in Toronto and her mother, a tiny, fierce woman, pinched my cheeks and promised me some real, Spanish cooking. Having grown up in a household where outside-of-the-box fare rarely went further than Chinese takeout and tacos, it was something, to say the very least. My mouth burned and my palate reveled, but there’s very few first-food experiences one can honestly say they have committed to memory. Paella, when done properly, should be one of these. 

Traditional paella is, of course, usually served with seafood and sausage. Every summer in Valencia, I was told, people take to the streets and have full-blown paella cookoffs, much like the pie or chili contests of which my ilk are more accustomed. 

Nonetheless, after running into my friend Maria in Toronto a few weeks back, I’ve made it my business to attend to creating a vegan version that, despite its lacking in authenticity, makes up for it in flavour and a bit of creativity. 

3 tbsp olive oil 

1 large onion, chopped 

2 tsp fennel seeds

5 large cloves garlic, minced 

2 cups Arborio rice 

3 cups vegetable stock or broth 

1 16 oz. can stewed tomatoes, undrained 

1 cup red wine 

2 tsp dried thyme 

1/2 tsp saffron threads

1/2 tsp cayenne 

1/4 tsp paprika

1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped 

1 large yellow or red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1" chunks

2 veggie sausages, sliced (Tofurkey’s Spicy Italian Sausage works great)

1 cup frozen peas (or fresh peas if possible) 

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste 

1. Heat the oil in a large pot on medium, then add the onion, fennel and garlic and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Stir in rice, and sear for one minute. Add the stock, tomatoes and wine in batches, allowing the moisture to be taken in before adding the next batch. 

3. Add the thyme, saffron, cayenne and paprika and bring to a low simmer. 

4. Stir in the artichoke hearts and bell pepper, stirring frequently, and return to simmer. 

5. Cover, simmer over low heat 20 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring every few minutes. 

6. Stir in the peas and veggie sausage over a medium high heat, then cover and continue to simmer 2 minutes. 

7. Just before serving, toss the cilantro in over medium heat, then serve. Add a few grinds of sea salt and cracked pepper.

Enjoy, friends.