Spicy Kick Quinoa

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This is a great recipe, taught to me by my busy mum, who is the queen of preparing meals ahead. When my sister and I lived away from home, this is one of those dishes which my mum would batch-cook and send away with us to freeze, for those busy days when you don’t have time to cook from scratch. Gradually, our friends also fell in love with it, and asked us for the recipe so that they could cook it for themselves. Although my nanima (nan) has taught me a lot about cooking traditional Indian recipes, I also like to share my recipes and tweaks with her. My nanima has taken a real shining to this recipe and given it her seal of approval. She’s not a huge fan of rice (she prefers rotis!) so it’s the perfect packed-lunch meal for her to take to work. She hates bland food and so do we, so spicing it up was a must! My sister has perfected her version of this dish, always boiling the quinoa with a vegetable stock cube (optional). There are several variations and adaptations as I’ve written below, so I encourage you to be creative and use your favourite vegetables when cooking it. I like to cook a big batch of this and freeze it in lunch-size freezable containers. It stays fine in the fridge for a couple of days if you decide not to freeze it.

Serves 7-8


  • 300g white quinoa (see variations)
  • Cold water – use double the quantity of water to quinoa (unless stated otherwise on pack)
  • 1 vegetable stock pot (mine is a 125ml pot from the supermarket), or vegetable stock cube
  • Rapeseed oil, to cook
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 fat cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 green finger chilli, finely chopped (or to personal taste)
  • 1 level teaspoon haldi (turmeric powder)
  • 1 level teaspoon paprika
  • 1 level teaspoon salt (or to personal taste)
  • Half teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 brown cardamom, crushed open with a pestle and mortar (optional)
  • 150g tomato passata
  • x1 400g tin of good quality chickpeas, drained and thoroughly washed
  • x1 200g tin of sweetcorn (or frozen sweetcorn)
  • 1 green and 1 red pepper, cut into chunks (I like the chunks quite small)
  • Splash of soy sauce (optional)
  • Half teaspoon garam masala
  • Fresh coriander, to garnish
  • Tweaks: You might want to bulk it out with tofu, paneer cubes, quorn chunks, chicken or soya chunks in stage 6 (cooking time will vary accordingly). To add a delicate sweetness, add a few raisins or sultanas in stage 6, or a few coarsely chopped cashew for a crunch. Add some fresh, finely chopped mushrooms. Make it as simple or colourful as you wish – I love full flavours, but you may not.
  • Freeze note: This dish freezes really well
  1. Wash the quinoa using a fine sieve and transfer to a wide, heavy-based saucepan. Add the stock pot (or cube) and water, and bring to a boil over a moderate heat.
  2. Make the tharka in a separate heavy-based, wide frying pan (big enough to add the quinoa later), heat the oil.
  3. Add the onions and fry until light brown before adding the garlic and chillies. Cook for 2 minutes over a moderate heat.
  4. Add a splash of water then add the haldi, paprika, salt, pepper and cardamom (if using). Stir through, coating the onions and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, check the quinoa and give it a stir to ensure the stock pot/ cube has dissolved. Once the water has come to a boil, lower the heat and cook until most of the water has absorbed.
  6. Stir through the tomato passata into the onions mixture and cook for 1-2 minutes before adding the chickpeas, sweetcorn, and peppers (or any meat/veg of your choice – see tweaks). For colour and taste, add a splash of soy sauce at this stage (optional).
  7. Cook over a low heat, covered, for 5 minutes, or until the consistency has thickened (adjust cooking time according to ingredients).
  8. Check on the quinoa – once most of the water has absorbed and it starts to look fluffy, switch off the heat and cover for 3-5 minutes.
  9. Carefully fold in the quinoa, ensuring it is all coated in the tharka. Use a flat spatula so as not to mush it. Remove the brown cardamom.
  10. Add garam masala and coriander to garnish.
  11. Cool and freeze if you wish to prepare ahead.


Secrets & tips – don’t over-stir the quinoa, otherwise it will become too mushy. Use a folding technique to mix in the sauce and spices, and make sure you get the water measurements spot on, in line with the instructions on the pack.  Add a vegetable cube or two if you wish to (like my sister does), and any fresh/frozen vegetables or meat to personal taste.


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