Now, I had just shortly before that finished reading On Watership Down, and it was one of my favorite books. Because of that, I just could not bring myself to eat rabbit. Yet I did not want to offend my hostess. So I would surreptitiously pick out the meat and put it in a napkin to throw out later when I brought my plate to the kitchen.
This was undoubtedly very silly because obviously the rabbit juices were still in the rice and vegetables I ate, but such was the logic of my thinking. And the rice portion of the paella was delicious – as it always is.
The thing about paella is that it’s a very versatile dish, and you can add just about any meat or vegetable you’d like to it. Sausage and other meat are very common, but so is fish. Clams and shrimp often adorn the top of the rice, and are steamed along with the rest of the ingredients the last 10-15 minutes or so, making it a very attractive dish.
However, while you can always add such things yourself, particularly for special occasions, that’s not really an option for the budget-conscious for a regular meal. Chicken is one choice that’s more economical. But most often I find that I use tuna or another economical fish (tilapia, pollock, etc.) for this dish. It makes it a very easy, everyday meal that takes minimal prep. And occasionally, I will use canned salmon, instead, depending on what's cheapest in the grocery store.
I can also sometimes get fresh fish for a very affordable price of around $1.99 a pound. Not salmon or swordfish,of course, but the aforementioned cheaper fish like pollock or tilapia. It’s also good to remember that fish portions are smaller than meat portions. Three ounces is considered a serving size, so it goes a bit further than meat does.
One thing I’ve changed completely from original and completely authentic paella is that I substitute the much more affordable turmeric for the insanely priced saffron that traditional paella dishes call for. In my humble opinion, saffron may add color, but it does not add much by way of flavor, and is hardly worth the price you pay for it.
I get a lot of color from turmeric - which is also considered a powerhouse spice for its health benefits - for a fraction of the cost.
All in, as cooked, this recipe costs about $8, and makes about 6 servings. With a fresh, tossed salad, it comes in at around $1.75-$2.00 per person.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes 6 servings
Prep time – Approx. 15 minutes
Start to finish time – Approx. 35-60 minutes
Total recipe cost – Approx. $8.00
Total per person meal cost with tossed salad – Approx. $1.75
2 tablespoons canola oil
1½ cups of long-grain brown or white rice
20-24 ounces of canned light or albacore tuna
1½ pounds of fresh fish or seafood of your choice
Combination of fresh and canned fish
1 15-16 ounce can crushed tomatoes (approximately 2 cups)
1 vegetarian, chicken, or fish bouillon cube
3 cups of water
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups frozen peas and/or any other vegetable of your choice
Recipe continues after photos.
- Peel and dice the onion.
- Peel and chop the garlic.
- If you are using vegetables other than just the peas, then slice and/or dice them.
- Add the bouillon cube to the 3 cups of water and heat it in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes to dissolve the cube and make broth.
- Heat the oil in a medium pot or large frying pan for about 1 minute over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook for about 5-7 minutes until just translucent. Add the garlic and sauté it for an additional 30 seconds or so, stirring frequently.
- Stir the 1½ cups of uncooked rice into the onion mixture, mixing all the ingredients well. Cook and stir for about 1 minute.
- Add the 2 cups of crushed tomatoes, any fresh vegetables you're using, the 3 cups of broth, the bay leaf, the 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 teaspoon of paprika, and the ½ teaspoon of pepper.
- Cover and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer the ingredients for about 40-45 minutes if using white rice, or about 50-60 minutes, if using brown rice.
- When the rice is just about done to a firm/tender consistency, gently add the tuna or other fish, and the peas. Cover and cook over low for about 5-10 more minutes, breaking up the fresh fish with a fork as it cooks.
- Remove the bay leaf from the paella before serving, and serve it along with a tossed salad.