Vegetarian Quinoa Pilaf

Since discovering that we like quinoa grain in different dishes with meat, I wanted to experience its natural taste cooked only with vegetables. Cooking with variety of vegetables produces more gentle stock that does not overwhelm overall taste of the dish with the intensity of meat flavours. I decided on a very simple mixture of vegetables – red capsicum, onion and Lebanese zucchini, to get the taste, juiciness and colour into my plate of white quinoa.

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Ingredients: 2-3 servings

  • 1 cup white organic quinoa (150g)
  • 1 red capsicum, sliced in long strips
  • 2 small onions, sliced in rings
  • 3 Lebanese zucchini, sliced longitudinally into strips
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bird’s eye chilli, deseeded
  • 1 tea spoon of ground cumin
  • pinch of fennel seeds
  • pinch of caraway seeds
  • salt to taste
  • 2-3 table spoons of olive oil
  • 1.5 cups of boiling water
  • chopped coriander (optional)

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Preparation:

  • heat olive oil in a casserole dish
  • add garlic, chilli, fennel and caraway seeds and cook them for 2-3 min
  • add onion and cook it until translucent
  • add red capsicum
  • wash and rinse quinoa, add quinoa to vegetable mix
  • mix everything together and let the oil cover quinoa
  • add ground cumin
  • add boiling water and cook on low heat for 15 min until nearly all liquid is absorbed
  • add sliced zucchini, chopped coriander, mix them in, cover with the lid and rest for 10-12 min

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In all instructions for cooking quinoa grain the ratio of quinoa to water is 1:2. When I cooked quinoa for the first time with vegetables, I have found out that the final pilaf was too wet and had excess liquid. It had to be cooked for a longer time to evaporate this excess liquid. Juicy vegetables produce plenty of liquid during cooking, and I took this into account when calculated the amount of water added. That is why, when cooking together with vegetables, I used 1:1.5 ratio of quinoa to water. I added zucchini at the last possible moment to avoid their overcooking and keep their crunch and fresh colour, but they were still overdone and lost their colour. The same happened with coriander. It’s flavour did not come through at all, so I put it in the ingredients list as optional.

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I served quinoa and vegetable pilaf as a meal on its own and not as a side dish, to enjoy the taste of a simple vegetable and grain mix. I liked it a lot, actually better than brown rice with vegetables, which I make quite often. I liked the unique texture of quinoa with a bit of a bite, but also its specific taste with a touch of bitterness, well balanced with a sweetness from onions and red capsicum. I intent to add 3-4 cherry tomatoes next time I make this pilaf, to see how it might change overall taste.

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