SWEET POTATO / BUTTERNUT SQUASH QUINOA RISOTTO

Ah risotto. What is there to say? Nothing really, other than that I worship the day it was born. I am, as I’m told, “such a foodie” so it is difficult to brand any meal or ingredient as a favourite - I have too many. But Risotto - especially Squash Risotto, Mushroom Risotto or Avocado & Greens Risotto - would definitely be more towards the top of the list.

One of rice, pasta or bread would feature in my breakfasts, then in my lunch box, then in my after-school snack and then again at dinnertime most days of the week at school, and I think this is how my body finally came to the decision that it had had enough. Since leaving home i have become more conscious of the effects certain foods have on my body and as I now have free reign to cook whatever I like, I’ve replace glutenous, starchy, processed carbohydrates with healthy, wholesome, nutritious ones. Mainly, Quinoa. I avoid grains completely and felt sad and reluctant to say goodbye to Risotto, however soon got over it as i discovered Quinoa was my key to an even better risotto dish.

Pumpkins and squash are at their peak during October and November and I cant get enough of them. I prefer to use squash to cook with as it is sweeter and less watery. Packed with Vitamin A, low in calories and a storehouse of antioxidants it is such an amazing way to increase the nutritional levels of any dish. It also sorts out your immune system so eating this in the winter is not only warming but healing too. In this rice-less risotto, i use squash to make a smooth, sweet, nutty puree to increase the flavour and the creaminess. I’ve used the puree as a side to meat dishes before, as a warm salad dressing and have baked with it or served it as a sweet, spicy sauce. Coupled with almond milk in this recipe it makes a thick sauce for the quinoa to absorb, making a perfect end result for this dish as well as pasta-free courgetti or sea kelp noodles.

INGREDIENTS
(serves 6)

1 Blue Squash, 2 Sweet Potatoes or 1 Large Butternut, chopped
3 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
1 1/2 Cups White Quinoa (can also use buckwheat, or brown rice)
250ml Almond Milk or Coconut Milk (thin coconut milk, not tinned)
2 Tablespoons Solid Coconut Milk (tinned) - optional
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Mixed Dried Herbs
Generous Pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt or 1 Teaspoon Tamari
Pepper - to taste
200ml Organic Vegetable Stock (can also combine 200ml with 1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast)
1-2 Tablespoons of Nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon of Coconut oil
Small Handful Fresh Sage
Large Handful Fresh Basil - chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Rosemary
1-2 Cloves of Garlic, or 1 Tablespoon Wild Garlic, diced
1 Courgette, grated (optional)
1/4 Cup Cauliflower or Broccoli Heads (not stems), grated (can also use carrot, beetroot or kohlrabi)
2 Handfuls of Spinach
1-2 Tablespoons Smooth Tahini
1 Teaspoon Mustard, optional
2 Cups Water

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180-200c. Chop the pumpkin, sweet potato or squash into cubes and roast around 30 minutes, until it softens and begins to brown. If you have longer to prepare this, I like to slow roast mine at 180c for just over an hour. If you are short of time, you can roast it on a higher temperature.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of 1 Cup of water to the boil, and then add half of the almond milk, chicken stock, and your quinoa. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes.

When your chosen vegetables are fully roasted, take half of them and place them in a blender with the remaining nut milk, two tablespoons of solid coconut milk (if using), salt, the garlic, the spices and the dried herbs. Blend until fully combined, scraping down the sides and adding 1-2 tablespoons water, olive oil or coconut oil if it needs help to run smoothly. Set aside.

Chop the cauliflower/broccoli, spinach and the fresh herbs whilst the quinoa finished cooking. Finely chop the tops of the broccoli/cauliflower so you are left with a rice-like texture, or grate them. Add these to the quinoa when there is just enough water left in the saucepan. 

Once the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, add the chia seeds, the other cup of water, the leftover roasted pumpkin/sweet potato/squash, the puree and (if you think it needs it) an extra clove of garlic or more dried herbs and spices, to taste. Mix thoroughly and stir over a low heat, gradually adding a little more water if the mixture is thickening too much. Stir constantly to keep everything from sticking to the pan.

+ Serve with Coconut Oil, toasted seeds, chopped or roasted nuts, chopped Avocado or a sprinkling of grated or diced cauliflower or broccoli.

+ You can also try adding peas to this recipe, to add texture and increase the flavour.