You don't have javascript enabled! Please download Google Chrome! BLACK QUINOA, CHICKEN & SWEET POTATO BIRYANI - The Wholehearted Cook


Dani VennMeat Lover

You might remember last week when the loveliest of lovelies, Heide Sze, qualified nutritionist and dietician, came over to my place to show me how to stock a healthy pantry? Heidi shared her pearls of wisdom with me in a great video that’s handy if you’re after some tips on what are essential ingredients for healthy cooking. Some of the food groups that we chatted about include…

WHOLE GRAINS: things like brown rice, quinoa, freekah, bulgar and whole wheat pearl cous cous. Heidi emphasised the importance of mixing these things up and not being afraid to experiment with different grains that you might not have cooked with before. Our supermarkets shelves are saturated with white pastas and white rice, but if you look beyond eye level there are awesome wholegrain alternatives to be found. After I swapped white for brown rice I found that white rice now seems bland and watery compared to the nutty, flavoursome and more nutritious brown rice. It’s amazing how quickly your tastebuds change.

NUTS & SEEDS: things like whole, sliced or crushed almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, pepita / pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. I always stock up on nuts and seeds, they are great to keep in a ziplock bag in your car or handbag as a snack as they are a source of omega 3 (good fats) that satisfy you after a small amount (as opposed to that giant bag of chips where you just can’t stop at a handful!) Plus I love adding them to both savoury and sweet dishes to add flavour and texture and they also look really pretty as a simple garnish.

SPICES: The world would be a bland place without spices…! Things like cinnamon, cumin, fennel seed, black peppercorns, dried chilli, nutmeg, dried turmeric, coriander seed.. the list goes on! Using spices in your cooking is a great way to add flavour to your dish without adding any calories (not that I’m counting them!) or anything artificial. As Heidi explains in our chat they also can help to reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar levels and are natural antioxidants.

RAW SWEETENERS: Things like honey, maple syrup, coconut nectar, agave syrup and medjool dates. Using a small amount of natural sweeteners in their natural state is a much better alternative to using refined sugars. I’ve popped medjool dates into this category even though it’s not officially a raw sweetener, but I use them all the time in both sweet and savoury dishes (like the one below) and was so happy to find out from Heidi that they are actually good for you! When I feel like something sweet I sometimes just eat a medjool date on it’s own, it’s like mother natures candy.

Of course these are just some of the pantry staples we talked about but having these things on hand will help make your cooking sing! I’ve created this dish for Black Quinoa Chicken and Sweet Potato Biryani as it’s a great recipe to help you stock up your pantry with goodness and it’s completely delicious. It really is a lovely dish to cook on the weekend perhaps when you have a bit more time on your hands and friends are coming over for dinner. You don’t have to use black quinoa, white or red quinoa is fine too, I just like the colour contrast against the brilliant orange sweet potato. I hope you can give this modern take on a classic Indian dish a try. Enjoy…Dani x

Wholegrains, nuts, spices and raw medjool dates sweeten this dish.
Wholegrains, nuts, spices and raw medjool dates sweeten this dish.

ICS Dani Venn_March 2232


Serves 4 – 6 at an Indian inspired feast

Put on some music, pour yourself something to drink and allow 90 minutes to prep and cook this dish, plus a few hours for marinating


700g free range chicken thigh fillets, chopped into bite sized pieces


1 tablespoon freshly minced or grated garlic

1 tablespoon freshly minced or grated ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup full fat natural yoghurt

½ lemon, juice only

1 teaspoon sea salt

Spiced Quinoa

2 cups black quinoa, rinsed (or white / red is fine too)

6 cardamon pods

1 cinnamon stick

1 bunch coriander leaves, washed and roughly chopped

½ bunch mint leaves, washed and roughly chopped


3 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)

1 red onion, finely sliced

500g sweet potato, peeled, small dice

1 teaspoon freshly minced/ grated ginger

100g natural sliced almonds (crushed cashews would work too!)

4 medjool dates, pip removed, finely chopped (If you can’t find medjool dates you could also use dried currants or cranberries)


Place chicken in a mixing bowl, add garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, yoghurt, lemon juice and sea salt. Mix well to combine. Cover with cling wrap and place in fridge to marinate for 3 hours or overnight.

Add quinoa to saucepan along with cardamom pods and cinnamon as well as 4 cups of water. Place over medium-low heat and allow water to reduce, when water is almost completely reduced, cover with lid, turn heat to low and allow to steam for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, pick out spices, place quinoa in a mixing bowl, fluff up quinoa using a fork, season with salt flakes and fold through chopped coriander and mint, reserving a little for garnish.

Add a tablespoon of coconut oil into a frypan over medium heat, when hot add onion and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until onion becomes golden and slightly crispy. Remove from heat, set aside.

To cook sweet potato, add a tablespoon of coconut oil into the same frypan over medium heat, add ginger and sweet potato and cook for a few minutes then add ¼ cup of water and continue cooking, stirring occasionally and adding water when needed until sweet potato is softened and cooked through, this might take about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

To cook chicken add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil into the same frypan over medium – high heat, when hot add chicken and marinade and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is slightly golden and cooked through. Remove from heat, set aside, ensure you reserve the yummy juices that the chicken has been cooking in.

To serve, toss together chicken, quinoa, onions and sweet potato, garnish with extra herbs, dates and almonds. Serve warm.

ICS Dani Venn_March 2246

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *