December 17, 2011

Finnish Christmas with a Twist: Carrot-Quinoa Casserole

The realisation that Christmas is only a week away suddenly came to me whilst browsing my calendar. I had clearly been so immersed in all other activities that I had successfully closed my eyes and ears from the Christmas clutter one can bump into just about anywhere at this time of the year. I deliberately avoid all shopping centres (even when it's not Christmas) and although I've written down several reminders of Christmas gifts and cards, my mind has subconsciously swept past those notes. 
It is not too late to do my Christmas shopping, however, as I'm planning to do most of it online this year. I am concentrating on ethical gifts and my reasoning for this is simple: there are simply too many unwanted Christmas gifts shared every year, too much junk that is forgotten in the far corners of your home and never looked at again. Christmas is about giving, right? So why not give a gift that passes on the goodness, a gift that gives?

There are plenty of options available for these ethical gifts. Here in Australia websites like Oxfam and other charity organisations offer suitable options for all budgets. If you're unsure about donating to international organisations, why not look for a local institution or organisation to support? I'm sure many of them will be more than delighted to receive donations at this time of the year.

Christmas shopping aside, this carrot-quinoa casserole continues my "Finnish Christmas with a Twist" series. Traditionally, this casserole is made with rice porridge, but to lift up the protein and nutrients content, I've used quinoa instead. I've replaced bread crumbs with almond meal and left out the syrup that is traditionally used to sweeten this dish. The organic carrots I bought from the farmers markets were so sweet they needn't any extra help! This is a perfect addition to my Christmas table.

Carrot-Quinoa Casserole*
(serves 4)

1kg carrots (sweet, organic)
1 cup quinoa**
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
1 egg (free-range, organic)
3-4 tablespoons almond meal

* Update!! This recipe can also be made vegan! The egg is not necessary in the recipe. You can also use sweet potato (about 400g mashed) instead of carrot. Delicious!
** I used Tasmanian quinoa that has a slightly more "porridge" like texture. If you are using other type of quinoa, use a little bit less water (about 1 1/2 cups). 

1. Peel the carrots, cut them in large pieces, and place in a large casserole. Add just enough water to cover all carrots. Bring to boil, then leave to simmer until the carrots are completely tender. Drain, but save the sweet boiling water!

2. Rinse the quinoa and place in a saucepan. Use the carrot boiling water and some additional water to cook the quinoa (about 2 cups). Cook the quinoa for about 7-10 minutes, it can still have a little bite to it and some water left in the pan. Pour the quinoa in a large glass bowl (don't drain) and leave to cool slightly. 

3. Preheat the oven to 175C and grease (with oil if you want to keep this dish dairy-free) an oven dish. 

4. Mash the carrots into a smooth purée. Add the mash into the cooled down quinoa and season with the spices. Stir in the egg.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared oven dish and even the top. Sprinkle with almond meal and bake for about 30 minutes. Leave to cool slightly, but serve warm. 

Links to ethical gifts

For my friends in Finland
For all other countries, please google "ethical gifts" to find organisations near you.