Monday, 1 February 2010

Quinoa risotto

Yes, this is recipe number 2 on this blog using quinoa, but what can I say? It's brilliant. I was resistant to it for years, dismissing it as the preserve of hippies and weirdos with food intolerances. But, in fact, it's an impeccable rice/pasta replacement if you're craving a stodge-fest but don't want to either fall asleep after lunch or GET FAT.

This recipe was inspired by a cookbook that arrived at my house that at first, I'm ashamed to say, made me laugh out loud. It's called Cuisinier Gascon, by Pascal Aussignac, the head chef at Club Gascon Group, a very smart sort of chain of Gascon-inspired restaurants in London.

It made me laugh out loud for its unimaginable complexity. It's all beautiful and gorgeous, no doubt, but the idea that I would make a Cappucino of Black Pudding with Lobster and Asparagus or a Carpaccio of Foie Gras with Figs and Walnut made me snigger. Not that, I must hastily add, this book was intended for me - it's recipient was supposed to be Giles, but little do people know that I intercept all of Giles' post, stack up the press releases, burn the hatemail after passing names and address onto the police, put all the knickers in the bin, give Giles the fanmail to read over breakfast and appropriate all the cookbooks.

I was about to dismiss the book as too silly to be useful when I suddenly sobered up and realised how damn lucky I am that I live in a house where top chefs send in signed copies of their books, even though they're not meant for me.

So I sat down with Cuisinier Gascon and read it from cover to cover and it's brilliant; I will make one of its more complicated recipes soon as a penance, but for now, I made today for lunch a quinoa risotto, inspired by a seafood quinoa risotto I found in the book.

It serves 2 and goes something like this:

80g quinoa

300ml stock

1/2 stick of celery

2 shallots

a few snippets of lemon zest






1 Chop up the shallots, garlic and celery and saute gently for about 8 mins in 1 tbsp groundnut oil and a generous lump of butter.

2 Add the quinoa and fry off for about 3 mins

3 pour in all the stock and leave to bubble gently for about ten minutes, giving it the occasional stir. The quinoa ought to absorb all the liquid, after about 15 minutes. You can add more if the quinoa is too al dente for you. The quinoa basically behaves like risotto rice so if you've made a risotto, it'll all be pretty familiar. The bonus is it takes much less long to cook than risotto rice.

4 When the quinoa is cooked, add another knob of butter, salt and pepper, lemon zest, a handful of parmesan and a couple of thick rounds of chorizo, chopped up, Stir to combine and then turn out onto hot plates - sprinkle over more parmesan and the parsley.

I served this with a sprig of roasted cherry tomatoes, which worked really well - to roast baby tomatoes just put in the oven for about a hour at 180 C.


  1. Oooo interesting using quinoa in a risotto, I used pearl barley the other day instead of the rice and it was also good.

  2. I always find barley takes forever to cook - I keep trying it and finding it tough and then when it comes to eating it don't want it anymore. I take it you don't have this problem.

  3. I went to one supermarket last night - no quinoa, walked half an hour to another...realised I had quinoa at home. Bought ingredients, was starving by the time I got home, started cooking, reached into my shelf...and poured risotto rice into the mix!! AAARRRGGHH! by then it was too late to start again, and my skinny risotto turned into a fat risotto. But it was tasty all the same.

  4. Andrea! I love this story. I'm sure it was really delicious, fat risotto is just one of those things that makes life worth living. At least you know where the quinoa is now if you feel like giving it another go x

  5. No, I do have the forever and an age barley cooking problem, but it was more than the other day that I made it, come to think of it, and I had conveniently forgotten that part. I think the key is to start making it before you're even remotely hungry.

  6. YES. This is a very profound & excellent thought re: starting cooking before you're hungry. I'm getting better at it, but often I wait until I'm taking bites out of the furniture before turning on the hob, which is why I so often have scrambled eggs for lunch

  7. Hi there, do you roast the Quinoa to start off with in a dry pan? I have done this before and it brings out a nutty taste in it - not sure if this is right for a risotto. I've also been told to rinse it to get rid of the bitter bits, but not sure if this is necessary?

  8. Hi Lynda

    I don't roast the quinoa, but I can only imagine that would be a great thing to do. There is a stage in a normal risotto where you lightly fry off the rice with onions before adding the first sloosh of stock.

    Yes, absolutely, you should always rinse quinoa.

    E xxxx

  9. I must admit that I have difficulties in understanding why this recipe is called "risotto" as there is no rice at all...doesn't risotto imply "rice"? Sorry for sounding ironic...