This is winter comfort food at its very best, and it is as healthy as it is delicious. While there are three components to the dish, each one is a handy recipe in its own right, and any leftovers - whether it be quinoa fricassee, kale pesto, or cauli puree - can be incorporated into almost any meal the following day.
I love including the white beans here to give the cauliflower puree some thickness and body; too often a cauli puree or mash can feel thin and watery. The beans add a welcome starchiness, a creamier texture, and some plant-based protein too.
This recipe serves 4 people.
for the leeks, mushrooms & quinoa:
1 cup quinoa
4 cups of water, or light vegetable stock
4 tablespoons of rapeseed oil, or cooking oil of your choice
2 shallots, or 1 small brown onion
1 clove garlic
4 medium leeks
16 chestnut mushrooms
1 tablespoon mushroom ketchup
salt & pepper
squeeze of lemon
for the cauli puree:
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil, or cooking oil of your choice
1 brown onion
2 stalks celery
1 tin cannellini beans
400ml light vegetable stock
Put the quinoa into a medium saucepan with the salted water or light vegetable stock. Bring this to a gentle simmer over a medium heat, and cook for 18 minutes, until the quinoa has ‘sprouted’. Once cooked, drain and allow the steam to billow off.
Meanwhile, let’s make the cauli puree. Dice the onion and celery; heat the rapeseed oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish, and sauté gently for 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Add your herb of choice, if using. If the onions catch a little this is okay, it will add depth of flavour. Meanwhile, prep the cauliflower.
Remove the exterior leaves and finely slice the cauliflower, into a ‘cauli couscous’ texture, as it were. No need to break the head down into flourettes first, you can run your knife through the whole cauliflower. Finely slice some of the softer stalks (not the toughest central stalk). Add these to the onions and celery.
Season with salt and pepper. Add the hot vegetable stock, and the drained beans. Place the lid on the saucepan, and cook 10 minutes, stirring every so often.
Check they cauliflower is sufficiently soft, before transferring into a blender or food processor. I recommend using a slotted spoon, as you may not need all the cooking liquid, this could result in a puree that’s a little too wet. Blend until as smooth as possible. Keep warm.
Now to finish the quinoa fricassee. Heat the rapeseed oil in a saucepan (the same saucepan as the quinoa – just a quick wipe will do!). Finely slice the shallot, and crush the garlic; gently sauté these in the rapeseed oil, along with the thyme leaves.
Top and tail the leeks, remove the outer layer if needs be, and rinse the end. Finely slice into rounds. Wipe the mushrooms clean of any dirt, and chop into sixths. Add these to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for approximately 8 minutes to soften and sweeten, stirring often.
Add the cooked quinoa, and the mushroom ketchup. Mix well and heat through.
Served a generous spoonful of the cauliflower puree in warm bowls, laden with the quinoa, leeks and mushrooms. A little squeeze of lemon over the top will brighten all the flavours, and a few generous dollops of kale pesto to stir though.
If you fancy adding a little crunch toasted hazelnuts are a wonderful topping here, and some freshly grated parmesan never goes amiss!