Portraits and Paella

Cultivating an appreciation for portrait and people photography is one thing, and actually producing decent images on the subject is another entirely. It wouldn’t matter if not for the demands of various photography classes, most of which seem to be written with only one type of student in mind. Either everyone with a camera dreams of growing up to become a high school prom photographer, or some of these lessons are really missing the mark. Where is the passion for still life and commercial photography I find myself immersed in everywhere else? Sure, those basic lighting techniques taught with any sort of subject will prove handy once applied to other disciplines of the art form, but for now, courses entitled “People Photography” sound like one full semester of torture. Forced to face this glaringly weak point in my toolbox of skills, it’s turned out to be a learning experience in more ways than expected so far.

Just before winter break, the final project for a certain “Location Lighting” class demanded numerous shots of people and things in all different places, making for a mad dash around town with unwieldy light stands and giant reflectors in tow. Ultimately, I’m pretty sure it was one particular shot, taken within the comfort of my aunt and uncle’s home, that truly secured my grade.

The take-away lesson from this experience? Make the picture about food anyway! By adding this element of interest, and with the help of my very patient and tolerant Uncle Alberto, it was no longer the same frustrating process of trying to make a scene out of nothing. Now there was a story, and a subject I knew how to work with.

And let me tell you a bit about that subject: Paella. Vegan paella, packed full of fresh vegetables and vibrant yellow grains of rice, all infused with saffron. Redolent of onions and garlic, it’s a simple yet classic dish that must not be underestimated. Though there was a more traditional, seafood-filled version on the table alongside this one, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone seemed to have at least a scoop of the veggie version on their plates, too.

That would have been the end of this story, but then, for my birthday, a wonderful gift fell into my hands… My very own paella pan.

Thank goodness I already had a tried-and-true recipe to turn to, because I wanted to fire up that stove right away! My only alteration was to add a dash of smoked paprika, because I just can’t get enough of that stuff. The beauty of this dish is that it’s endlessly versatile, and pretty much any vegetables hanging out in the fridge will do just fine. Consider throwing in a drained and rinsed can of chickpeas for a bit more protein, too.

Yield: Makes 6 – 8 Servings

Uncle Alberto's Vegan Paella

Uncle Alberto's Vegan Paella

Vegan paella, packed full of fresh vegetables and vibrant saffron rice, is a simple yet classic dish that's bursting with flavor. This is the version my uncle taught me to make using entirely traditional plant-based ingredients.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
  • 4 Cups Brussels Sprouts, Halved
  • 4 Cups Other Assorted Raw Vegetables, such as Asparagus, Red Peppers, Zucchini, Mushrooms, and/or Artichoke Hearts
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 Cups Medium Grain Rice
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Teaspoons Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Large Pinch Saffron
  • 2 Cups Frozen Peas
  • Lemon Wedges, to Serve


  1. Saute Brussels sprouts with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper until cooked with hints of browning. Lightly saute the other vegetables for about 5 minutes and season to taste. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In a paella pan or large skillet on the stove top, heat the remaining olive oil and cook the diced onion and garlic over low heat. Once translucent, add the paprika and saffron, and stir well. Add rice and saute for approximately 1 minute. Add Brussels sprouts, vegetables, and broth and bring mixture to a low boil. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, stir and cover.
  3. Cook for approx 20 minutes over low-med heat until the liquid has mostly been absorbed. Add frozen peas, stir into the rice, cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  4. Serve in paella dish with lemon wedges.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 202Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 667mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 7gSugar: 8gProtein: 7g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.


29 thoughts on “Portraits and Paella

      1. Nope, the cover is still the same- It’s probably an older version of the cover that they have posted. Don’t worry, and if you order through them, expect the book to look like the image on Amazon.com. There’s only been one printing so far, so all the books out there are still alike!

  1. Your uncle is adorable! Hehehe. I’m glad that you managed to find a point of interest in a class or subtopic that you were dreading. It’s not easy! Most times we just have to suffer through it, but your creativity allowed you to find some spice, so to speak, in an otherwise uninteresting topic. Well done!

    And congratulations on acquiring the pan! Woohoo! I have a question: my aunt gave me a clay pot with a lid in which she made paella once; she prepared the dish in the oven. Would you, or your uncle, know how to adapt this recipe for the oven? If not, no worries: I’ll just make do with my unfancy pan ;)

    Thank you, also, for sharing this recipe. Ever since trying vegan paella in Barcelona many years ago, I have been craving it but haven’t had a chance to replicate it. I’ve got saffron in my arsenal, though, and I think it’s time to put it to work!

    1. How interest, I’ve never heard of such a vessel for paella! I’ve never tried to make paella in the oven before, but I did find this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for a dutch oven version, which sounds similar to your pot: http://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/detail.php?docid=6604 Maybe you could adapt that technique to these ingredients? I’ll ask my uncle if he has any ideas, too. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

  2. What a great picture of your uncle! And that paella – WOW!! I’m going to make this for my hubby, who has been hinting that I make some paella for a while now. Your recipe looks fantastic!

  3. You really did a fabulous job catching how much your darling uncle is enjoying cooking the paella. Paella…the food of gods. I saw a Jamie Oliver where he helped make this gigantic paella in a town square in Spain for the whole town. It was pretty amazing. I made Paella for 300 people once at a wedding out side on a fire with this gigantic pan. It was wonderfully fabulous. Paella…I think I need to make some soon or it will be stuck in my brain like a snippet of a catchy tune…

  4. I love how you made your portraiture project highlight food as well! Totally captures your personality along with your subject’s. I find that I’m actually better at portrait photography than food. Who knew that shooting something as immobile as food could be so challenging!!

  5. I’m going to have to make this this weekend! Without the paella pan, but a big wok will do, I think. Great portrait of your uncle too, definitely came out perfect!

  6. Keep up your strong efforts in your photography class as it is obvious you are mastering the content. Great photo of your uncle and his paella looks delicious. Great comfort food. Take care, BAM

  7. If I hadn’t already ordered chinese (and if it wasn’t already 6:30) I’d be making that tonight! I’m adding this to my “to make” list, thank you for sharing! It looks ridiculously good!

  8. Your own paella pan, so you can get the crunchy bottom! Hurrah!

    Also, brussels sprouts? Wonderfully inventive! Gorgeous photo, too. You uncle looks a character :)

  9. […] found this gem while browsing for vegan recipes on Pinterest last week. The original comes from Hannah Kaminsky at BitterSweet. Check out her post for the story behind the paella and some seriously mouth-watering photos. I […]

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