plant-based paella

The first time I met Leo he told me about his famous dish, he lived in Spain for a year and the family he lived with taught him how to make the perfect paella. A few weeks later he invited my friend and I around for dinner to cook it for us. I have to admit that I've never been so impressed with someone else's cooking. The red pepper paste really makes this dish, as well as the addition of using pearl barley. It may sound like a longer recipe than we usually upload to the site but believe me, it's well worth the effort.

Serves 4-6 & takes 40 minutes to cook


  • 2 aubergines, cut into bite-sized chunks

  • 2 sweet pointed peppers, deseeded and cut into small chunks

  • 2 large tomatoes

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 1 red onion, peeled and diced

  • 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika

  • 2 vegetable stock cubes, mixed with 700ml boiling water

  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric

  • 100g frozen peas

  • 150g pearl barley (about 1 cup)

  • 150g paella rice (about 1 cup)

  • 100g sun-blushed/semi-dried tomatoes (or sun-dried tomatoes)

  • Handful of fresh parsley

  • Olive oil

  • Salt and pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 190C, fan setting.

2. Place the aubergines chunks onto a large baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and a large pinch of salt and cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes until soft. Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to one side.

3. Place the pepper chunks into a blender with the tomatoes and garlic, pulse until a smooth paste forms. Leave to one side until needed.

4. Place a large flat pan over a medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Once warm, add the diced onion and a large pinch of salt, mix well and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onion becomes soft.

5. Once the onion is soft, mix through the paprika. Cook for a couple of minutes before adding the cooked aubergines and red pepper paste. Mix everything together before leaving the whole thing to simmer for 5 minutes.

6. After 5 minutes, mix through the boiling stock, turmeric, frozen peas, pearl barley and paella rice. Give everything a really good mix and bring to the boil, before reducing the heat and leaving to simmer until the pearl barley and rice become soft, this should take around 20-30 minutes.

7. Once the pearl barley becomes soft and there is no more visible stock, sprinkle with sun-blushed tomatoes, parsley and a good crack of fresh pepper.