Quinoa Risotto

I think it is a bit ironic that the most popular recipe and photos on the blog is also my least favourite ingredient. I have said before that I do think the only thing interesting about quinoa is the spelling but I find myself time and again trying to make some flavourful dish with it. These Quinoa Fritters with Avo Salsa were definitely a successful attempt and remains a very popular recipe.

Quinoa Risotto

I have been playing with the idea of doing Quinoa Stuffed Peppers and cooking the quinoa in stock to really pack some flavour in the grain. And it was when a photograph of  Quinoa Risotto by Donna Hay appeared on my Instagram feed that I was sold on the idea of cooking it in stock. I decided to forgo the stuffed peppers and thought the risotto would be a perfect recipe to welcome autumn.

I must say I loved the result. The quinoa took on the flavour of the stock very well and the marriage of cheese and mushrooms is delicious with the quinoa. I had just made some Labneh and it was a wonderful second cheese to add in the mix. I really do not want to be pedantic but I do believe that when you make risotto you have to use  home made stock. I just don’t think stock made from a concentrate or powder is good enough for risotto.

Quinoa Risotto

And please give Conrad’s wine suggestion below a read. I do think pairing it with Sherry is rather genius!

Quinoa and Mushroom Risotto


  • 1.5 litres warm chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 400g mushrooms (any type) roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed
  • the leaves from 6 sprigs thyme
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ cup quinoa
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • salt and cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup labneh (or any other cream cheese)


  1. Combine the stock and wine and bring to a simmer.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Fry for about 7 – 10 minutes, stirring regularly until cooked. Remove from the heat and cover.
  3. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, add the onion and cook over a medium heat until softened (about 5 minutes). Add the quinoa and ½ cup of the stock. Cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Add the rest of the stock 1 cup at a time, adding more stock only once it has been absorbed. Stir frequently and cook over a medium high heat for about 30 minutes until the quinoa is just cooked. (If you find you need a bit more liquid towards the end and do not have any stock left just use warm water).
  4. Remove from the heat, stir in half the parmesan and mushrooms. Check the seasoning and add salt and black pepper if required.
  5. Spoon into serving bowls and top with a tablespoon or two of Labneh and the remaining mushrooms. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and serve.
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Wine suggestion from Conrad Louw:
As mentioned before, when pairing wine with food, one of the elements is to look at “what may be the main source of flavour in the food”, or what flavour may dominate.  Quinoa offers, apart of its amazing nutritional value, very delicate nutty flavours.  But it is, compared to the other heroes, the two cheeses and mushrooms, very neutral.  With Parmesan, not the sprinkle type you buy in small shakers or a bag, but something good such as quality Parmigiano-Reggiano, one has a wide choice of wines, from Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Merlot and fruity Shiraz to Pinot Noir.  But the trick comes in here to balance the flavours with the creamy labneh.  Personally I will therefore not drink a red with it, but all the main flavours mentioned together with the mushrooms, will work well with a lightly oaked Chardonnay, and there are many, or Fino Sherry – my specialty.

Amongst many others, Spanish Sherry, Lustau, is available in South Africa, and my choice would be to enjoy this dish with a Lustau Puerto Fino (from the town of El Puerto de Santa María, a seaside town situated in the Sherry Triangle).  The Puerto Fino differs from the other Finos in that it presents itself with rather pungent Parmesan-like nose and taste.  It also lifts any creamy dish and will add to the richness and complexity.

If you cannot find the Lustau Puerto Fino, try normal Monis Pale Dry.  It is a great Sherry-style type of wine which will surprise you when sipping it with this ‘risotto’.

Just by the way – it is INTERNATIONAL WORLD SHERRY WEEK from the 2nd to the 8th of June 2014.  Check out the website and get excited about Sherry:  http://www.isherryweek.com/

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