This months Random Recipes (RR) Challenge was right up my alley as for Random Recipes # 12 Dom from Belleau Kitchen challenged us to cook something from a book we received as a Christmas present! Since I got 11 new books this Christmas (6 were part of a collection - honest!!) I had plenty of recipes to choose from! I guess technically I should have closed my eyes and randomly picked a book from the 'Christmas Collection' but I didn't (tut tut, although the rules did say just to pick your newest book!)...instead I went for one that I was desperate to cook from – Full of Flavour by Maria Elia.
Now I might not have necessarily chosen the book randomly but I did pick the recipe at random which turned out to be Orange and Sumac Scented Quinoa! I have to admit I was pretty delighted about that one as I have been meaning to make more quinoa for a while now.
I've only had Quinoa once before but in a typical post-Christmas bid I had been wanting to eat more of it for its health benefits and obviously hoping it would taste good and not be like eating a giant bowl of carbs which is a constant issue for me!! I don't particularly remember what I did the first time I made quinoa but I suspect I just followed the packet instructions on how to make it then added ingredients that I would add as if it was a couscous salad. Whatever I ended up doing, it obviously wasn't amazing as I didn't rush to make it again, so I was excited when I picked this recipe.
Everything started off fine – the problem arose as I was cooking the quinoa. The instructions said to cook it for 10-15 minutes until tender and the orange juice had been absorbed. I suspect I might have gone wrong by not putting a lid on the pan but there was no mention of this in the recipe and after all since I was testing the recipe I followed it. Needless to say after 15 minutes the quinoa was not tender! In fact it still had a distinct crunch to it. I popped a lid on and cooked it for another couple of minutes but still to no avail so eventually I added some extra water to the pan and cooked it for probably another 6-8 minutes (with the lid on!) until it did become tender! We got there in the end, although it didn't look as light and fluffy as I was expecting, however on allowing it to cool slightly (as per instructions) it did fluff up and separate so it turned out just fine in the end.
The second thing I had to adapt was using toasted almonds as despite being sure there were plenty in the pantry there were none! Oh well – not a problem I just toasted up some pine nuts instead which were delicious and to be honest in the future I would use again for this recipe (although of course I later found the sliced almonds – have to blame that one on Wee One and his constant fascination with my kitchen cupboards!). I also couldn't get any of the Shiso Sprouts but it tasted just fine without them and they were only an optional ingredient. Other than that though everything went according to her instructions and the final dish was delicious! At first glance when I looked at the pan of quinoa I was a little surprised that it was meant to feed 4 people as it certainly didn't look like a lot (but perhaps that was just the gluttonous part of me!!), however after eating some for lunch it would have been just perfect for 4 servings as I ate a quarter and was definitely very full! Since I was keeping it to have over a couple of days I only added a little avocado to the part I was eating so that it didn't brown and ruin the rest of the dish.
The final dish was tangy, nutty, and downright delicious! I can see myself making this quite a lot for lunches as it would be perfect for packing up into a container and taking with you – or just to make up a batch to keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Next time I'm also going to try it as suggested, with some Chilli-Roasted Feta which I know will be fabulous. What I might change though is to perhaps try cooking the quinoa in stock rather than the orange juice as the orange was certainly the dominating flavour and did overpower a little – especially the next day when the flavours had all had a chance to fully develop. Everything else was fantastic though and the addition of the Sumac is a perfect balance in the dish. This was a definite Random Recipes success!
Orange and Sumac Scented Quinoa
2 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
finely grated zest of 1 orange
240ml freshly squeezed orange juice
sea salt & black pepper
25g flaked almonds, lightly toasted (I used pine nuts)
½ bunch coriander, finely chopped
½ bunch mint, finely chopped
1 avocado, diced into 1cm cubes
Shiso sprouts, if available
2 tsp sumac, plus a pinch for garnish
Heat the oil in a frying pan then add the carrot, celery and onion. Cook for roughly 8 minutes until softened but not coloured. Add the quinoa and cook for a further minute while stirring.
Add the orange zest and juice and bring to a boil. At this point I would recommend covering the pan with a tight-fitting lid(!), then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes (ideally!) until the quinoa is tender and all of the orange juice has been absorbed. Season with some salt and pepper and stir gently with a fork.
Leave to cool slightly before adding the almonds (or pine nuts if you prefer!), coriander, mint, avocado and sumac. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve garnished with the shiso sprouts if you have them and an extra pinch of sumac and I couldn't resist a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (I blame Jamie!).