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.

Super quick quinoa and brown rice salad

I’m so excited now that the weather is finally improving and we are beginning to see more sunshine. Add that to the long light evenings that we have at this time of year and I’m positively brimming with the joys of Spring!   Some days have already been lovely and warm – fabulous opportunities to get outdoors. Which leads me neatly on to one of my favourite warmer month activities – eating outside. Continue reading “Super quick quinoa and brown rice salad”

Quinoa – being celebrated all year!

Did you know that quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-waa’ although I still think ‘quin-noah’ in my head!) is such a superfood that it even has it’s own year? The United Nations has decided that 2013 is the International Year of Quinoa, a celebration of the Andean people who have preserved traditional ways of cultivating this nutritious grain as well as it’s potential for alleviating poverty and food insecurity – not bad for such a tiny grain!

Quinoa has been the ‘in’ grain with the dieting fashionista for some time now, often used for gourmet markets only. But as more becomes known about the great nutritional properties of this unusual grain, it’s popularity is increasing and becoming more mainstream.

Although I’m calling it a grain, Quinoa is not actually a true cereal but more related to beets and spinach; the ‘grain’ is the plants seed. The leaves can also be eaten as a green, although these are not readily available on the international market. Nutritionally, quinoa really is a powerhouse of goodies, with fantastic levels of manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium. It’s high in fibre and low in fat and cholesterol. But what makes quinoa even better is that is the protein content; it is one of the few plant-based sources of complete amino acids as well as being gluten free.

As well as eating as a whole seed, quinoa can be ground into a flour and used to make bread, cakes, pasta, dumplings – the list continues. It’s great as a salad base, added to stews and soups and apparently can be used to brew beer!

Being suitable for practically any type of diet (it’s even considered kosher) or allergy, demand has been increasing, and therefore so has the price. This means that indigenous populations are finding it hard to buy (the price has tripled since 2006!), but equally farmers are able to make livable income which has a knock on effect, expanding the economy as a whole. Trials are underway elsewhere in the world to see if quinoa can be grown in different climates; after all, potatoes were once the staple of the Andean population, maybe quinoa can be too.

In my opinion, quinoa definitely has a place in a plant based wholefood diet. There are of course ecological aspects to take into consideration – air miles, farmer welfare etc – but when compared to the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industry, they just don’t equate.
I love quinoa as a salad base; this one is called Sarah’s salad, after my lovely friend who first introduced it to me. It’s simple to make and packed with nutritional goodies. This recipe makes a big bowl – it stays fresh in the fridge for a few days but it’s easy to half if you don’t want to eat it every night. Enjoy!

Sarah’s Quinoa Salad
200g quinoa
4 grated carrots
couple of handfuls of chopped fresh herbs – parsley, mint or coriander
2 tbspns mixed seeds
2 tbspns flaked almonds
2 tbspns raisins or sultanas, soaked in boiling water
50mls of fresh orange juice
good glug of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
First, cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions – I tend to do 3x weight of quinoa i.e.: 600mls in this case. Simmer for 15 minutes or so until the water has been absorbed and the grain soft but with a little ‘bite’. Drain any remaining cooking liquid and leave in the pan with the lid on to steam for a few minutes. Empty out into your serving bowl to cool off.
Meanwhile, grate the carrots, lightly toast the seeds, and soak the raisins or sultana for a few minutes so they plump up all fat and juicy. Once the seeds and quinoa are cool, drain the raisins and mix all the ingredients together, adding olive oil and seasoning to taste.