Jewelled Quinoa Pilaf and Little Squashes

Jewelled Quinoa Pilaf - I know that's a flowery name, but how pretty is it! Okay, I also know this is a really autumnal recipe, and trust me, I know it's a bit late for that. It's 4.30pm and it's dark outside. Dark! So yes, it is well and truly winter. But whatever.

I also know that winter arriving means that I've got to start preparing to leave Edinburgh. I knew when I came to study here more than four years ago that I would be leaving, but it doesn't make it easy. At its most basic, this move involves packing up all my stuff, and there is so much of it.

Clothes and shoes, I can sell or give away. But it's the cookbooks. The sheer number of them, yes. The problem is that I cannot bring myself to get rid of them. Each one is unique, each one full of different ideas. I just can't let go of them, so I'm moving them, along with all my kitchen stuff. Wasn't lying when I called this blog kitchen hoarder.

Okay, so there's a lot of stuff, but it's also difficult leaving an entire life behind. It sounds dramatic, but it feels that way. I don't really know what the point of this post is, I guess I just wanted to say it. I think this post is a mess because my thoughts feel more than a little messy.

Let's just move on. When I found these cute little harlequin squashes, I had to get them! They stood up on their own so well, I just had to stuff them. So I made a quinoa pilaf and filled them up. But the truth is, the squashes were just too cute and small and could only really hold about two spoons of quinoa.

After removing the tops and seeds from the squashes, I roasted them cut-side down on a baking tray in an 180C oven for about 35 minutes. BUT since I had a friend over for dinner, I ended up cutting up the squashes and mixing them through the quinoa. Still so good.

Jewelled Quinoa Pilaf

Serves 3-4 people

1 cup quinoa, rinsed (Makes about 3 cups cooked quinoa)

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced into 1cm cubes

7-8 mushrooms, diced

A handful of walnuts, coarsely chopped

½ cup dried cranberries or raisins, soaked in hot water with a dash of sherry vinegar for 20 minutes

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground cumin

Chopped coriander, to garnish

First, cook the quinoa. The best instructions ever for cooking quinoa are from The Kitchn - basically use 2 cups water for every 1 cup of quinoa. I use my rice cooker, and it's easy peasy. When the quinoa is done, let it cool lightly so it doesn't get soggy.

In a big pan, heat up two tablespoons of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the red onion and sauté until translucent and slightly golden. Add the spices and saute for a minute. Add the red pepper and mushrooms and stir, then add the cranberries or raisins. Cook for a few minutes, only until the veggies are slightly softened.

Add the cooked quinoa and walnuts and stir through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve. Garnish with chopped coriander.