♥ Mushroom, Asparagus and White Bean Quinotto
♥ Tomato and Basil Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
♥ Spicy Vegetable Quinoa Rice
♥ Quinoa Kitchari
I think we have all heard of quinoa now and how good it is to eat, although some may still not know how to pronounce it! It’s gluten free, has a decent protein and mineral content and has a low glycaemic index*.
The wonderful thing about this grain, which is actually a seed, is it’s versatility. It can be easily substituted into many dishes to increase nutrient density. I like to use quinoa to bulk up soups, add into salads or replace rice and pasta. Call me quinoa crazy but it really is good in anything!
The first time I tasted quinoa was when my mum cooked it for me just after I had my son a couple of years ago. I had been intrigued to try it. I liked the texture and slight nutty flavour. It was comforting too. Well she had doused it in butter thinking it would boost my energy and aid recovery after having a baby!
That’s the thing about Indian mothers, they insist on feeding their daughters with lots of highly calorific food to bring up the strength after child birth. Both my mum and mother in law laid on the spinach, oat paratas (flatbreads) and sweets packed with almonds and laden with ghee (clarified butter). I did see some of the nutritional value of this food and obeyed in eating. Most of the time! Nevertheless, quinoa, I found interesting.
I have been eating lots of the stuff since then and even fed it to my baby once he was on solids, blended up with carrots. It is quite simple to cook using a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to water for fluffy grains. And now, I have carried on experimenting adding it to some of my favourite dishes and creating new ones around it.
Here are four of my most popular recipes. They are all quite different but importantly great vegetarian dishes with a source of protein (all 9 essential amino acids*) making them satisfying and substantial meals.
Note: Remember to always wash the quinoa well. I use a fine sieve and let water from the tap run through it.
First up, a slightly indulgent mushroom, asparagus and white bean quinotto. That’s quinoa pretending to be risotto and actually being pretty good at it. It’s still creamy and delicious as a healthier alternative with strong garlic and mushroom flavours.
I like to add a swig of white wine vinegar for a zing of acidity to cut through. Feel free to use your favourite white wine. Also, by using a little extra water to cook the quinoa, it becomes softer and a perfect texture for this type of dish.
Mushroom, Asparagus and White Bean Quinotto
- 250g brown or chestnut mushrooms
- 1 tin of white beans (white kidney beans)
- 200g baby asparagus
- 150g (around 1 cup) quinoa
- 400ml (2 cups plus some extra) of water
- 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar or white wine (optional)
- 2-3 tbsp. cream
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 white or brown onion
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp. of dried)
- A small knob of butter
- Wash and drain the quinoa. Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic.
- Warm 1 -2 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan and begin sauteing the onions on a low to medium heat.
- Meanwhile chop the asparagus into small pieces.
- Once the onion has softened and slightly browned, add the asparagus and white wine vinegar or wine. Give it a good stir.
- Slice half the mushrooms and the other half chop into small pieces keeping an eye on the onion and asparagus in the pan, stirring occasionally.
- Add the mushroom and garlic and stir. Cook for around 2 minutes until the mushroom starts to soften and releases liquid.
- Add the drained quinoa, stir to coat in the oil then add the water and put the heat on high to bring to a boil. Add the rosemary and season well with salt and pepper.
- Once the water is boiling, cover the pan and bring the heat down to low. Let the quinoa cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile wash and drain the beans.
- Uncover the pan, stir and add the beans. Check again for seasoning and cook for another minute to let the beans warm through.
- Finish by stirring through a splash of cream and a small knob of butter.
- Serve with your favourite cheese on top and some crusty garlic bread.
Next is tomato and basil quinoa stuffed into peppers. Peppers (or capsicums) are great vessels for filling as they hold their shape when baked. Quinoa is also delicious baked as it forms a crusty coating which tastes even better with some cheese. I’ve gone for a tangy tomato flavour to go with the roasted pepper which is lifted with basil. The filling for this dish could actually be eaten on it’s own, however stuffing it into a pepper makes for a more interesting meal with added texture.
Tomato and Basil Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 150g (around 1/2 cup) pasatta sauce/fresh tomato sauce
- 4 peppers
- 2 large vine tomatoes
- 160g quinoa (around 1 cup)
- 350ml water (around 1 1/2 cups)
- 50g grated Cheddar cheese
- Handful of torn or chopped fresh basil (or 1tsp. dried)
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Wash and drain the quinoa.
- Chop the onion finely, the tomato into small cubes and mince the garlic.
- Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil and fry the onion.
- Once the onion has softened and slightly browned add the tomato, passata sauce and garlic. Cook down for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Add the quinoa, stir and add the water. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan then turn the heat down to low and cook for 15 minutes stirring half way. Keep the lid on for 5 minutes after to let the quinoa steam in the flavours.
- Meanwhile, cut off the bottom of the peppers slightly so they can stand, ensuring not to cut through a hole. Cut off the top of the pepper and empty out the seeds. Brush with olive oil and place in a roasting tin with the pepper tops laid next to the pepper. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes.
- Once the quinoa is cooked and fluffy, stir through the basil and half the cheese. Fill up the peppers whilst they stand upright in the tray and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Place the tray back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes uncovered until the tops are crisp and cheese has melted.
- Place the pepper tops back on top of the stuffed peppers and serve with salad.
These last two dishes are adaptations of some Indian classics and both favourites of my son’s. The recipe measurements should be enough to feed a family well. If you want to cook less, simply half the ingredients ensuring the water ratio is followed. The dishes can be enjoyed as a main meal simply served with raita or yoghurt.
This spicy vegetable quinoa rice is great for using up a leftover vegetables lying around bringing them to life with warming spices. I have used the favourites in our house but green beans, broccolli and sweetcorn are all viable additions.
Spicy Vegetable Quinoa Rice
- 190g (1 cup) Basmati white rice
- 170g (1 cup) quinoa
- 940ml (4 cups) water. May need some extra.
- 1 large potato
- 1 large carrot
- 1 cup peas
- 1 red pepper (optional)
- 1 large onion
- 2 green chillies (optional)
- 1 inch of fresh ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- Handful of cashew nuts
- Squeeze of lemon
- Fresh chopped coriander (for garnishing)
- Wash the rice well and soak in water for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile peel and chop the potato, onion, carrot, pepper and green chilli (optional) into small cubes.
- In a large pan heat 2 – 3 tablespoons of oil and fry the cumin seeds, green chilli, cinnamon stick and cardamom then onion. Fry and keep stirring until the onion is softened.
- Add the chopped vegetables including the peas and stir fry in the spices until slightly cooked.
- Meanwhile mince the garlic and ginger using a fine grater or process. Add the garlic and ginger paste along with the turmeric, ground cumin and cashew nuts into the pan. Season with salt.
- Rinse the quinoa and add straight into the pan and stir through.
- Add half the water into the pan ensuring it covers the quinoa and vegetables. If not, add a little extra water. Bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pan with a lid and lower the heat to low. Let it simmer for ten minutes.
- After ten minutes, rinse the rice and add to the pan with the rest of the water and some extra salt. Stir and again bring to boil. Place the lid back on and turn down heat to low for another ten minutes.
- Switch off the heat and leave the lid on for 5 minutes to steam.
- The dish should be ready. Add a squeeze of lemon and fluff up with a fork. Garnish with some freshly chopped coriander.
Last but not least is kitchari, the ultimate Gujarati comfort food made up of easy digestible rice and lentils. I absolutely love how easy it is to make this dish, however a plate of it usually sends me into a food coma restricting it to a weekend meal for me. So for this recipe I have added quinoa to reduce the rice ratio making this lighter and even easier to digest. The split green moong (green lentils) keeps this dish satisfying without the need for oil and is simply spiced. If you prefer a richer taste, finish the dish by stirring through a spoon of ghee or a knob of butter.
- 200g (1 cup) split green moong (green lentils)
- 100g (1/2 cup) rice
- 85g (1/2 cup) quinoa
- 1 litre (slightly over 4 cups) water
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 3 cloves
- An inch piece of cinnamon stick
- Wash the split green lentils and rice thoroughly and keep in a bowl of water to soak for at least an hour. Wash and drain the quinoa.
- In a large saucepan warm the cloves and cinnamon stick dry for 30 seconds. This releases the natural oils of the spices, you will notice the clove inflated once heated. Take the pan off the stove.
- Drain off the water from the rice and lentils then add to the pan along with the quinoa and cover with a fresh litre of water. Put the pan back on the heat.
- Add salt and the turmeric. Stir once and bring the water to a boil.
- Once boiling, cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat down to low. Let it simmer for at least 25 to 30 minutes checking half way to give it a stir.
- Once the lentils are cooked and soft, keep the lid on and switch off the heat. Let the kitchari steam for a minute or two before giving it a good stir (adding ghee or butter if desired) and serve hot with cooling plain yoghurt. Comfort on a plate.
There you have my four favourite quinoa dishes. Please try them out and let me know what you think. What other ways have you used quinoa? I’m always looking for new ideas so do get in touch!
*Source: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations