Risottos are a traditional Italian staple and an absolute delight when cooked to perfection. Arborio rice cooked al dente with the right amount of wine, stock, cheese and butter is something essential to every risotto. Although if you’re thinking healthy, it’s not exactly at the top of the list with the indulgent creaminess it boasts of. This cheat’s way of making a healthy risotto is probably frowned upon by anyone who knows their risotto well, but it’s worth it! Made with white quinoa, a superfood in today’s world and nutritious roasted beets, flavoured with sweet caramelised roasted garlic and thyme, it’s a healthy vegan-friendly way to make your favourite Italian food an everyday meal!
PREPARATION TIME: 1 hour, including roasting
- 1 large beetroot
- 1 cup white quinoa
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock (for the purée)
- 1 medium red onion
- 5-6 cloves of roasted garlic (Note: This takes a good 40 minutes in the oven, so I’d suggest making it in advance and storing it in the fridge)
- 1/4 cup flaked almonds
- Few sprigs of fresh thyme
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
Preheat your oven to 190°C.
Start with roasting your vegetables i.e. the beets and the garlic, so you can get that out of the way and multitask once it’s in the oven. Place the beetroot on a piece aluminium foil drizzle with olive oil and wrap it tight in the foil. Cook it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until tender.
To make the thyme roasted garlic from scratch, look up one of my previous recipes: Broccoli and roasted garlic soup
The process of roasting transforms root vegetables like beets that are a hard, bitter, sometimes unlikeable vegetable into a sweet tender texture, that lends itself perfectly to this recipe.
Beets are one of those vegetables that I’ve never been so fond of, although that just made me want to experiment with more ways I could get myself to make them part of my meals. The simplest way to make the most of these gorgeous red vegetables is to add them to risottos, hummus, porridge or even make beetroot crisps!
Next, to cook the quinoa such that it’s perfectly fluffy in texture, there’s one rule of thumb I always follow : Stick to the ratio 1:2! That’s one cup of uncooked quinoa to two cups of liquid! Quinoa expands to about 3-4 times the quantity once its cooked.
Note: This recipe requires one cup of cooked quinoa and the rest can be stored in the fridge. Adjust the ingredients accordingly depending on the quantity you wish to serve.
In a medium saucepan, add the quinoa and the vegetable stock, season to taste and bring to a boil. Place a lid on the pan, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes until the stock is almost absorbed. Take the pan off the heat and let it steam with the lid on for another 10. Fluff it up by running a fork through it.
Let the quinoa cool completely.
In a another pan, sauté your onions until golden and add them to a blender. Also add in the beetroot, vegetable stock, almonds, squeeze in the roasted garlic cloves and thyme. Blend for a few minutes and adjust the stock until it becomes a purée. Season to taste.
Return the roasted beet purée to the pan, loosen it up with a splash of water if required. Combine with the cooked quinoa, drizzle with some garlic oil, dress it up with thyme leaves and serve. You’ll be sure to have a simple healthy meal that delivers a lot of flavour!
Wash the quinoa thoroughly before use, this eliminates the bitter taste that make some people dislike the grain. Basically if the quinoa is bitter, you haven’t washed it enough!
When cooking quinoa, NEVER use a ladle or spoon. It’s easier to use a fork that keeps the grains separate and maintains a fluffy texture.
If you give this recipe a go, I’d love to see how it turned out. Leave a comment below and share your pictures on Instagram using the tag #thecookbooklife!
Stay healthy! Eat your beets!