I used to have a bit of a problem with quinoa, bothered its unfamiliarity (we didn’t have quinoa in Middlesbrough when I was a girl) and its stupid pronunciation (I say that not in a xenophobic way; I just didn’t get it! Or is that what a xenophobe would say…?) Anyway, quinoa – ‘keen-wah’ – always seemed too, too strange for me, even when I was a vegan hippy camping alone in the forest in Labrador and scaling trees to keep my food away from hungry bears.*
As with most things we don’t understand, it was simply a question of ignorance. While I thought quinoa was simply another grain, it didn’t interest me much. I figured that there are plenty of those about so why would I bother trying a new one that I had no idea how to cook? What a fool I was…
Quinoa is SO rich in nutrients that the United Nations has declared 2013 The International Year of The Quinoa. At first glance, this does sound a bit bonkers but there’s sound reasoning behind it: ‘The objective of the IYQ Plan is to focus world attention on the role that quinoa´s biodiversity and nutritional value plays, in providing food security and nutrition (and) the eradication of poverty.’ All of which sounds good to us.
For runners, quinoa is great source of the protein they need for muscle repair. It’s the only grain, in fact, that serves as a complete protein. It also contains anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, heart-healthy unsaturated fats and is gluten free to boot. To think what I was missing all those years…
I served this risotto with these fantastic, easy to make (and, I might add, totally more-ish) Crispy Kale Leaves from Vegetarian Times. The crispiness of the kale compliments the soft risotto perfectly. So delicious – I’m practically drooling as I type!
*True story. I was also six months pregnant with Bibi.
Stilton, Spinach and Quinoa Risotto
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 leek, sliced
1 courgette, diced
Half a head of broccoli, chopped finely
1 teaspoon mustard
75g Stilton cheese (or more if you fancy), cut into small pieces
Large handful of spinach
Black pepper to taste
1 Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic, leek, courgette and broccoli and cook with the lid on for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2 Add the quinoa and vegetable stock. Stir well.
3 Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4 When almost all the liquid is absorbed, add the mustard and spinach, stirring well. Cook for 2 more minutes. Note: the consistency should be loose like a risotto – add a little hot water if it’s too stiff.
5 Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Stir well and serve as soon as the cheese is melted.
Serve with Crispy Kale Leaves or steamed vegetables. Leftovers (if there are any!) are great hot or cold for lunch the next day.