I love throwing themed dinner parties. For my birthday last year I had a Paris themed party, and this past birthday I did an Enchanted Forest theme. Recently I did a dim sum - themed dinner for a girlfriend's birthday.
But my go-to dinner theme is usually Mediterranean. That's because tapas and mezze are so quick and easy to throw together. Lately, my Mediterranean dinners have centered around this one, simple dish - Paella done in a slow cooker.
Like my Jambalaya, or Ragout, paella is one of those great, one-pot dishes that are so simple to make, and so flexible based on whatever happens to be in the fridge. It's a bit like savoury, gourmet comfort food.
Everyone who's had this recipe loves it, and I love that there's so little to clean up! You can make the paella tomato-free (if you're avoiding nightshades), or make it vegan, pescatarian, or meaty, depending on what you prefer.
Add a side dish like Baked Feta, Olive Tapenade, or Marinated Chickpea Salad and you have a quick and easy feast worthy of the most discerning guests!!
I like to serve this in a Moroccan tagine like this one, which makes a lovely serving dish and keeps the food warm while on the table.
Below, I've added optional ingredients, which you can ignore or add, depending on whether you want a meat-free paella, seafood paella, vegan paella, or a tomato-free paella.
I've had them all ways, and love them all!!
I also prefer to use brown rice, since it's more nutritious. If you decide to use white rice, you may need to cut back a little on the water/broth to adjust.
Personally, I'm not a fan of hard rice, so I don't saute the rice before cooking it. If you like a bit more bite to your paella, you can saute the rice for a couple of minutes in oil before transferring it to the slow cooker.
Ingredients for Gluten Free Slow Cooker Paella (serves 6 - 8)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 gluten free sausages, sliced (optional)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced (optional)
1 tomato, diced (optional)
1 1/2 cup brown rice
2 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
1 cup white wine (or 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp lemon juice + 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup frozen peas, soaked in warm water
1 cup fresh or defrosted seafood (such as shrimp, fish, squid, etc., optional)
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley (for garnish)
lemon wedges(for garnish)
1. In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Saute sausages slices (if using) until browned and cooked through, and set aside. Saute onions 5-7 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more. Transfer sausages, onions, and garlic to a slow cooker.
2. In the slow cooker, add all remaining ingredients up to and including black peppers - leave out the peas, seafood, and garnishes until the end.
3. Turn heat up to high, cover slow cooker, and cook for 2-2.5 hrs, until liquid is absorbed (this will depend on your crock pot). You will need to check your crock pot periodically to determine cooking time.
4. When the liquid is almost all absorbed, add peas and any seafood (if using). Lower heat, cover, and cook another 30 minutes, until seafood is cooked. Toss with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
What if you don't have a slow cooker, or want to cook this faster?
I know, you're probably wondering if you absolutely need a crock pot to cook this paella. You don't. I've done this in a large pot on the stove - add all ingredients, bring liquid to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes until almost all the liquid is absorbed.
Add the peas and seafood, cover again, turn heat off, and let sit on the element 15 minutes, until seafood is cooked through.
Toss with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
Looking for more Mediterranean dishes?
Here's an assortment of dishes I like to put out:
The Mediterranean has a wide variety of flavours and spices, from Europe to Turkey to the Middle East to North Africa. This particular meal plan is more of a northern Mediterranean -tapas style, inspired by my travels in Greece and Italy.
* Crock Pot Paella
* Italian Pickled Eggplant
* A DIY salad Bar (with things like beets, cashews, hemp seed, flax seed, and Marinated Chickpea Salad )
* Easy Flatbread from my book Living with Oral Allergy Syndrome
Have you seen the latest novel in my romance series, Lady of the Caravan? Get it now, and follow the queen's cousin as she braves the dangers of Egypt's great desert to marry a nomadic chieftain.