CANNELLINI WHITE BEAN AND SWEET POTATO QUISOTTO

November is here and, like most November’s, you’re probably cursing its premature arrival, certain that we should still be in October. November is a stressful month for many reasons. The weather gets colder, the days get darker, christmas gets closer and before you know it, the year is already over again. This means more colds, more early nights, more last minute shopping and get-together plans and more New Years Resolutions. It depends which way you look at it. Let’s forget all of that for a moment and think about the fact that food has never tasted so good, duvets have never felt so comfortable and staying in is far more enjoyable than going out anyway. This is the perfect time to wrap up indoors, to get creative with this seasons most nourishing foods and take time to make truly great food for you and your loved ones. Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year in terms of fresh produce. Everything is so hearty, earthy and flavoursome and I love cooking with soft vegetables and soft fruits, making everything into warm, nourishing concoctions.

Now, although the weather is unusually warm for this time of year, there is still a sense of urgency to rush into the house after a long journey home and slam the door in the face of darkness. I mean, I started my journey home from one part of London at 3pm the other day and by the time I’d gotten back over ground, it was pitch black. The nights are chilly and the darkness makes me feel like we are living under some kind of winter blanket, even though I’m not wearing gloves yet. All I want to do is get into the kitchen and straight back out of it so I can enjoy some wholesome, homemade food from the comfort of my bed or on the sofa. There is nothing more soothing than a bowl of steaming goodness, like a hearty soup, a thick, creamy risotto or nourishing stew. And with any one-pot recipe, you can just keep adding to it. You can add spices and herbs, homemade stock or broth, spinach or kale that may look like it’s seen better days. In a one pot, everything combines into a unique amalgamation of flavours, food groups and most importantly, nutrients, so cram as much in as you can, and be sure to make enough for leftovers for times when hibernation seems more appealing than cooking. 

This recipe is similar to my Crown Prince Quinoa Sotto - something I made over a year ago now, when I first started this blog. This recipe is quicker and easier though, as it doesn’t require cooking the sweet potato or pumpkin separately. You literally add everything to one big pan and let it all simmer together. Risotto was my favourite meal before i changed my dietary habits, but it always made me feel uncomfortable afterwards - too full to move and not especially nourished. This recipe doesn’t use cream, cheese, butter, sugar or processed risotto rice like most recipes do. It uses coconut milk, fresh herbs and quinoa, making it high in fibre, protein and low gi sugars, and low in starchy carbohydrates, grains, gluten and dairy (absolutely free from them, in fact). Enjoy playing around with this recipe, as there is always room to add more. I always add greens like spinach, diced broccoli or grated courgette as they cook down and become so soft you hardly notice them. 

INGREDIENTS

1 Tin Cannellini Beans
1 1/2 Cups White Quinoa
1 Tin Coconut Milk
1/2 Cup Water
1 Medium Sweet Potato (or pumpkin, squash or beetroot)
1 Handful Basil, Sage or Coriander
1-2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
Pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt or 1 Teaspoon Tamari
120g Chickpeas
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Tahini
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1 Teaspoon Coconut Oil
1/4 Teaspoon Fresh Chilli or Chilli Flakes

OPTIONAL EXTRAS
Cooked Puy Lentils
Peas
Spinach
Kale
Diced Broccoli
Grated Courgette

METHOD

Start by making the quinoa as this is your base. Use a large saucepan leaving space for you to add and build, and cover the quinoa in twice its amount of water. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and leave it to simmer. 
In a blender, blend the chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, garlic and 2 tablespoons of the tahini until smooth. This is a quick houmous recipe which adds a delicious creaminess to the sauce. You can also use shop bought organic houmous if you have it. Once smooth, set aside.
When the water is draining away from the quinoa and it is more or less cooked, add the 1/2 cup water, the coconut milk (solid and liquid), the cannellini beans, grated sweet potato and fresh herbs and stir to combine. Keep on a low-medium heat, stirring constantly and adding water or plant milk if the mixture is becoming too thick. Add the salt or tamari and the nutritional yeast, then stir in the houmous and coconut oil. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, adding your extra vegetables of choice. When everything is soft and all of the flavours have simmered nicely together, remove from the heat, season one last time and serve. 
I like to serve mine with a dollop of coconut milk or cashew nut cream, or sprinkled with baked basil or kale chips for extra crunch. My Savoury Qnola, which will be available in the New Year, is also delicious on top.