It’s easy to be inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi. And this lamb paella recipe was definitely inspired by his cookbook Plenty which is a compilation of Ottolenghi’s recipes from the Guardian. Admittedly, this is a loose adaptation of his multi vegetable paella. Yes, this is far from being vegetarian. Ottolenghi himself is not vegetarian, but this particular cookbook of his is. So with his version of course being completely sans, needless to say, I deviated greatly. His recipe also included a wider variety of vegetables and naturally real paella rice. I went for short grain brown rice (with a little wild rice mixed in) and subbed out some of the vegetables for locally sourced, organic lamb… plus I made a few other little changes, here and there. But despite my straying, even this lamb paella version seems to shine on the plate with all the amazing and distinctive tasting flavors. With a strong use of saffron, along with smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and fresh turmeric, and the unusual mix of fennel and artichokes, this may seem like a fleeting attempt to pay tribute to the classic paella. But I tell you this, this, the flavors are less than humble and far more interesting.
I can count on both hands how many people I know actually have a paella pan at home — I live in an urban European city, who has space this sort of thing? — yes, a big fat zero. Apparently, the key to cooking paella is having a wide enough pan so that the rice cooks evenly. I used a wok. I love my wok. It’s big and it’s deep, which is perfect for stewing the lamb into tender tasty morsels. Which is also why I think it is necessary to cover the wok for last 25 minutes — for the stewing part. When preparing traditional paella you don’t need to use a lid. Because the pan is so wide, everything cooks evenly, so it is specifically not meant to be stirred. What a change from risotto!
Yes, and although this recipe takes an hour to cook, you actually don’t have to do much after the first 10 or so minutes. It’s amazing simple to pull together. You simply simmer the rice in its flavorful broth and wait for the magic to happen!
Lamb Paella with Fennel, Artichokes and Tomato
Serves 2, generously or 4 as a side
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
500 g boneless lamb, cut into 2.5 cm cubes
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 large sweet pointed red pepper, halved and cut into strips
1/2 large fennel bulb, cut into strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh minced turmeric (alternatively use 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup organic short grain brown rice (150 g)
1/3 cup sherry (100 ml)
1 teaspoon saffron strands
1 2/3 cups vegetable broth, heated (400 ml)
sea salt, to taste
12-15 mini roma or cherry tomatoes
5 small jarred artichokes, quartered
4 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 lemon wedges, to serve (optional)
1. Heat the oil in a wok or large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat, and sauté the lamb, for 2 minutes until lightly browned on the outside. Reduce heat to medium; add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and fennel, and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until starts to soften – about 8 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, cook for a minute, then add the bay leaves and spices, stir, add the rice and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Add the sherry and saffron, increase heat and boil down for 1 minute, and then add the heated broth and a couple generous pinches of salt.
3. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered. Cover the pan with the lid and let simmer for another 25-30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked. Do not stir.
4. Turn the heat off. Taste and season with more salt, if desired. Scatter the tomatoes and artichokes over the rice, cover the pan and let stand for 10 minutes. When ready to serve, sprinkle the lamb paella with the parsley leaves. Serve with lemon wedges and enjoy!