Christmas quinoa

I love recipes that can be used for more than one function – it makes life so much easier. So for day 15 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, I bring you a super tasty recipe that can be served as it is, or used as a filling mix.

Quinoa is one of those ingredients that’s very handy to use when you’re catering for people who follow a gluten-free plant-based diet. It’s packed full of plant protein, fabulous fibre as well as a multitude of nutrients – check out this old blog post to find out more

On it’s own, quinoa can have a distinct flavour that puts many people off. Fortunately it rapidly absorbs other flavours so even cooking in vegetable stock makes a difference. Care needs to be taken not to overcook it though as it can go from hard and crunch to a mushy mess in a relatively short period of time. Measuring out the right amount of dried quinoa to water is key – follow the recipe and you should be ok.

This mix can be eaten as a stand alone dinner, used as a side-dish or as a filling for vegetables. I served this stuffed inside a sweet mama squash at our Eat Well Live Well group lunch and it worked a treat. You can use it in any vegetable suitable for stuffing though, but please not green bell peppers, unless it’s for you and you like them. I’m yet to meet anyone who enjoys a stuffed green pepper – please do correct me if I’m wrong!

Christmas quinoa (serves 4-6)

  • 180g quinoa
  • 700ml vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 50g dried cranberries 
  • 1 medium leek, shredded
  • 1 fat clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 medium parsnip, grated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme or sage
  • 100g cooked chestnuts, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • pinch ground cloves
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • finely chopped parsley to garnish (optional)

Place the quinoa in a sieve and rinse well under a running tap. Pour the vegetable stock into a pan, add the bay leaf and bring to the boil. Add the quinoa and stir well. Pop on the lid and bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat right down and simmer for 10-15 minutes until all the stock is absorbed and the quinoa is soft. Turn off the heat and leave to steam for a couple of minutes. If you are not using straight away, tip out into a large bowl to cool, otherwise it will become over-cooked and mushy.

Put the dried cranberries in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for a few minutes to plump up.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the bottom of a medium-sized pan and sauté the leek for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly so it doesn’t stick. Add the garlic and cook for another minute then the dried herbs and grated vegetables. Stir well and pour in a little of the cranberry soaking water to make sure the mix doesn’t stick to the pan. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the chopped chestnuts, sunflower seeds and the soaked cranberries, along with a little more of the soaking water and cook for another 5 minutes so everything is cooked through. Finally add the cloves, lemon rind, salt and pepper. Stir well and taste. Add more seasoning or herbs as needed.

Tip the veg mix into the cooked quinoa and stir well. Either serve hot straight away with a little parsley to garnish or leave to cool and use later.

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