Tuesday 29 July 2008

Paella with thanks

A new cookbook arrived in my mail box recently. Actually it was second hand but new to me and came courtesy of Rachel of the Crispy Cook. She has kindly decided to ask bloggers to put their names down each month to go into a draw for a nominated second hand cookbook from her Old Saratoga Books store. Oh how wonderful to have a shop of old books! If I ever had the pleasure, I hope I would be as generous as Rachel. And if you want to find gluten free bloggers she has an impressive list of GF blogs.

The book that I ‘won’ was Vegetarian Dishes from Around the World by Rose Elliot. This was published in 1981 before anyone discovered that we had our own recipes in Australia. Or maybe Rose just thought Antipodeans such rabid carnivores that she didn’t expect to find any vegetarian recipes in our midst. Sorry, had to have a whinge about that. Otherwise this is a great cookbook that I have been pouring over in anticipation of making many of the recipes.

I am probably getting a bit old in that 1981 doesn’t seem that far away but this book has a little of the earnest, fusty olde worlde vegetarian about it. I have quite a few Rose Elliot's books, as you can see on my cookbook list (which needs updating). This is an American edition so, unlike most of my other copies of her books, this is written with cup measures. But it does not make it seem any less British.

There are not too many other cookbook authors that I feel quite as passionate about. When I first became vegetarian I was advised to get a copy of her Vegetarian Cookery if possible. So it is interesting to note some of the personal tit-bits – such as that she was brought up vegetarian – and some of her preferences – for lots of colour in a meal.

The round the world theme is interesting. It seems more about finding comfort elsewhere than challenges. But then I suspect this is from a time when exotica such as Thai curry paste and miso were not everyday items in supermarkets. Indeed, her coverage of Asia seems limited to China and India. And as someone who has never understood the allure of French cooking, I find her praise of wonderful French vegetable dishes perplexing. She stresses the need for protein in a meal but this often seems to be cheese and eggs. Unlike some of Rose Elliot’s more recent books, this seems to hail from a time when life (and the pantry) was much simpler.

The first dish I chose to make is paella. Here is the moment to say that this book has no photos. So there were none of those lovely images of bright yellow rice with dark plump olives and the colourful jumble of peas, carrot and capsicum. Quite fortunate as the remains of the saffron in my pantry were a little dusty and did not produce much in the way of colour. Perhaps that is why I needed stock and not just salt for a little flavour. E chose to have his with tabasco sauce and cheese but I enjoyed mine as it came from the pot.

Like the book, the paella did not seem terribly exotic but tasted of wholesome goodness with brown rice and lots of vegies. I made a few changes to the recipe. I had chickpeas where she had roasted almonds and I added a few olives at the end but didn’t have as many as I had thought. Not a dish to transport you to the sunny shores of Spain, but one to make you feel you are doing something good for your body. And one to make me grateful to Rachel for her generosity in sending this book my way!

(adapted from Rose Eliot)
Serves 6

2 red onions, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
375ml (1½ cups) brown rice, rinsed
1 litre (about 3 ¾ cups) water
1 packet saffron (I used what I had left)
3 tsp vegie stock powder
Black pepper
2 large carrots, chopped
1 tin (400g) chickpeas, drained
1 large red pepper, sliced in rings
4 tomatoes, chopped (peeling is optional)
1 cup (250ml) frozen green peas
Handful black olives (chopping is optional)
Juice of ½ small lemon

Heat oil in large heavy based stockpot and fry onions on low heat for about 10 minutes till soft but not browned. Stir in garlic, rice, water, saffron, stock powder, carrots, chickpeas and some black pepper. Bring to the boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer. After30 minutes scatter with peppers, peas and tomatoes. Cover and return to simmer for a further 10 minutes. If, unlike me, you have time and read the recipe properly, Rose advises to remove from the heat and leave covered an additional 15 minutes before fluffing rice with a fork. I just stirred and served without the recommended wait.

On the stereo:
The Ghost Sonata: Tuxedo Moon


  1. Congrats on your win--sounds like a terrific book (but too bad Australia didn't exist before 1981--gee, how would I have visited??) The paella sounds hearty and quite lovely, even if "simple" in a 1980s way. :)

  2. Thank you for all your kind words, Johanna. I'm so glad the book arrived safely and that you are already cooking yummy and beautiful dishes from it. That paella looks mighty tasty!

  3. I think it looks lovely and colourful! And congratulations on your win - what a nice idea. I'm sorry to hear that not even a nice Aussie pavlova made it into the book though I think you're right about everyone's culinary world being smaller all the way back in the 1980s. Sometimes it's nice to get back to simple ingredients after all the quinoa and fleur de sel and so on!

  4. I made something with saffron once (can't remember if it was paella) and I had such high hopes for a delicious dish but it fell flat. Anyway how wonderful to get a cookbook in the mail! And your paella looks delicious. I should check out a Rose Elliot cookbook.

  5. "It seems more about finding comfort elsewhere than challenges." I've found this with several cookbooks. Very well put. :)

  6. I do love a paella, but so rarely make because they're always fish based recipes. This is a lovely one though - thanks for posting.

  7. thanks Ricki - it is a lovely paella and gives me confidence to try more recipes from the book, even if it is not a world where Australia exists

    thanks Rachel - the book is a great addition to my collection - lots of nice intros to recipes which are great to browse through as well as some yummy recipes

    thanks Lysy - it is easy to look at the recipes in the book and not to feel paranoid about some gap in the pantry like I do with some cookbooks - simplicity is the best way some days

    thanks Ashely - I have never had great success with saffron but the one I used had seen better days when it did actually give a bit more yellow but it is a cheap supermarket one and I suspect there are better ones out there (and probably more expensive)

    thanks Wendy - yes I have cookbooks I turn to for comfort and quite a few of these are british - what is it about british cooking that is so comforting!

    thanks Kathryn - had thought I had seen other vego paella recipes but when I checked quite a few cookbooks I could only only find one, so seems this is one to keep for next time you want paella

  8. Your comments about comfort vs. exotic challenges really resonate -- I have a few 'comfort' cookbooks, and we cook with them less and less these. The idea of a vegetarian paella looks much simplier than the non-vegetarian version... but it also looks kind of like fried rice with saffron. Is this a standard vegetarian version?

  9. Actually, I think the brown rice is the winning feature of this.

    I've always been a little ambivalent about Rose Elliot, but, of late, have found her recipes to be quite refreshing in a way, comforting as you say.

    Congrats on a great little win!

  10. Congrats on your book,your paella looks very inviting and delicious:)

  11. It is great to see a paella without fish and this is such a good book. What a lovely surprise!

  12. thanks Neen - I think often vegetarian dishes are more simple than meat/fish ones - maybe because meat needs more work/time to get the flavours than vegetables. I couldn't find enough other paella recipes in my cookbooks to tell you if this is standard - I don't think so as it doesn't taste like the one I had in a spanish restaurant a few years back - but my fried rice is quite different too (Soy sauce! pineapple! and never chickpeas)

    thanks Lucy - I think Rose Eliot has some great recipes and if you look at her new books you can see her style has changed over time and is now more modern and adventurous. But I agree with you about the brown rice making this version great - it was one of the things that attracted me to it

    Thanks Wendy - the brits do stodge so well!

    thanks Usha - it was really tasty

    thanks Holler - yes, I always like the idea of paella but who wants a prawn looking up at you when you face dinner!

  13. i had a really delicious vegan paella, with marinated artichokes, all sorts of beans, capsicum and loads of other stuff, at my aunts 40th in Buderim, qld last year. it was cooked by a catering firm, www.senorpaella.com.au. i watched the whole thing being cooked but can't remember how they did it now! it was awesome though!


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