Spring quinoa

spring quinoa
Risotto used to be my favourite thing to cook, but the traditional version isn’t exactly nutritious and would leave me feeling heavy and bloated.  Alas, I needn’t have ditched my favourite dish!  I’ve discovered a way to make a nutrient packed, lighter version that I dare say tastes even better – enter, spring quinoa…

Quinoa is packed full of protein, essential amino acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals.  Combine this with loads of green goodness and you have a dish that delivers on nourishment as well as flavour.

Do you know that watercress has been found to be the most nutrient-rich vegetable?  It has a nutrient density score of 100, it’s rich in calcium, iodine, folic acid, vitamins A and C, and omega 3 fatty acids.  It aids digestion and has been found to have cancer suppressing properties. I’ve been quick to jump on the bandwagon and stirred a generous serving through this dish.

How to make Spring Quinoa:
1 1/2 cups quinoa, well rinsed (this is really important as it removes naturally occurring but toxic residue)
2 tablespoons of organic butter (coconut oil or ghee)
1  onion (any colour), chopped
1 leek, trimmed and  sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed/finely chopped
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or 250mL white wine
1-1.5 litres of chicken stock (or vegetable stock) – preferably homemade, otherwise organic and gluten free

Use any combination of green seasonal veggies, I used these:
1 bunch asparagus, snap off ends and slice
1 cup peas
4 flat swiss brown mushrooms, thinly sliced (you could also use dried porcini mushrooms)

Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt & pepper
Parsley (or any green herbs)
Watercress (or any leafy green veg) – handful per serve
Olive oil


  • Heat butter in a medium saucepan or stock pot over a medium heat, fry the onions, 2 of the garlic cloves and leek until soft and translucent.
  • Add quinoa, coat with butter and stir for one minute.
  • Add apple cider vinegar (or white wine) and stir.
  • Add 1 cup of  stock and stir until absorbed. Continue to add stock 1 cup at at time, allowing liquid to be absorbed before adding more. Add the peas and mushrooms half way through, and asparagus for 1 minute at the end. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until cooked – taste for texture.
  • Stir through lemon, salt & pepper, parsley and watercress – adjust to suit your taste.
  • Serve with a dollop of labna and drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 6

* Labna is a delicious yoghurt cheese. If you want to make it yourself, it’s super easy, here’s how. You could also use parmesan, goats cheese, pecorino, or nutritional yeast for a non-dairy option – it’s got a delicious cheesy flavour and is packed with B vitamins.



Zara is a healthy home coach and keynote speaker on a mission to empower 1 million people to takes steps towards a healthier home. Zara learned about the link between our homes and our health after going through two different types of cancer. Zara is passionate about shining the spotlight on what she believes to be the least understood health challenges of our time, and sharing the things she wishes she had known, that could have prevented the illnesses she has been through. Recognised as one of Australia’s leading health influencers, Zara was a finalist in the 2014 Bupa Health Influencer of the Year Awards. She has appeared on TEN News, Today Show and The Project, been featured in the Herald Sun, I Quit Sugar, and contributed Medibank’s Be. Magazine and Fairfax health online publications. Zara contributed to the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s first comprehensive report on breast cancer in young women in Australia.

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