Mushroom and Corn Quinoa Salad with Sweet and Spicy Sunflower Seeds

Mushrooms are always such a treat. Although they’re not the prettiest morsel out there, they’re undoubtedly scrumptious (and nutritious to boot!). I find myself constantly surprised by the humble shroom; stirred into a risotto with wine, pecorino and stock, they are pure and light; grilled on a barbecue, they provide an earthy balance to meat and salad; and when simply sautéed with garlic and thyme, oh they make me weak at the knees.

As a Dietitian, I am all about the veggie love. Vegetables are an incredible source of a wide range of micronutrients. They’re high in fibre and non-starchy vegetable are super low in kilojoules. So they’re all-round marvellous, really. Including a wide range of colourful vegetables in your daily diet is a golden health tip, and most people simply do not eat enough. The recommendations for adults are 5 serves of vegetables a day, with one serve being ½ cup cooked vegetables or legumes, or 1 cup salad vegetables.

So, with all this in mind, when I was approached to create a Summer Mushroom recipe for Australian Mushroom Growers and their Summer Mushrooms Campaign, naturally I jumped at the opportunity to summon my shroom love and get creative in the kitchen. Anything I can do to inspire people to eat well, including eating and enjoying vegetables is fabulous.

I am really pleased with this salad - it’s tasty, it’s healthy and it’s exciting! I am quite in love with the way the creaminess of the goats cheese balances the kick of the sweet and spiced sunflower seeds (and they are spicy!). Then you have the supremely nutritious quinoa (which is such a favourite of mine) and mouthfuls of delightful, bursting sweet corn kernels. And it’s all finished off with smooth, sautéed mushrooms. Perfectly smooth shrooms. Ain’t that grand.

Mushroom and Corn Quinoa Salad with Sweet and Spicy Sunflower Seeds

Serves 2 as a main or Serves 4 as a side dish, alongside some lean grilled lamb or other meat.


For the Mushroom, Corn and Quinoa Salad:
4 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic
1 Red Chilli (½ is required for the recipe, or more if you wish)
220g Button Mushrooms
2 medium Corn Cobs (~200g Corn Kernels)
½ cup dry Quinoa (I used black quinoa in this recipe, but you can use white or red if you wish)
½ cup Water
½ cup Chicken Stock (you can use vegetable stock if you wish, or replace the stock with extra water. The stock adds more flavour, so you may wish to add a pinch of salt to the quinoa when cooking if just using water.)
2 handfuls Spinach Leaves
2 tablespoons Goats Cheese (I love Meredith Goats Cheese with all my heart, try this brand found at grocers and gourmet food shops. I always have at least one jar in my fridge to jazz up salads, omelettes, pasta dishes).
1 juicy Lemon, for juice and 1/3 teaspoon rind (see Sunflower Seeds below)
4 teaspoons Garlic-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I use Cobram Estate garlic-infused oil (found at Woolworths among other places). If you do not have access to garlic-infused oil, a) you should, and b) simply mix 1 clove of garlic with regular extra virgin olive oil).

For the Sunflower Seeds:
1 tablespoon Sunflower Seeds
2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
½ teaspoon Dried Chilli Flakes (reduce to ¼ teaspoon if you dislike spice)
½ teaspoon Smoked Paprika
½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
¼ teaspoon Salt
1/3 teaspoon Lemon Rind


Cook the Quinoa:
1. Rinse the dry quinoa under cold water using a fine sieve, then put it in a pot with the stock and water. Bring to the boil then let it simmer down for ~15 minutes, adding more water if required. You will know it is cooked when the grain starts to separate and the water is mostly absorbed. Turn off the heat, pop the lid on and let it absorb any remaining water for ~10 minutes. Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork, set aside and allow to cool.

Cook the Sunflower Seeds:
2. In a small non-stick pan, toast the sunflower seeds over low heat for 3-4 minutes, until lightly toasty and golden. Add the sugar, spices and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the sunflower seeds are well coated in sugar and spice (~1 minute). Transfer the sunflower seeds to a sheet of baking paper and separate the seeds as best you can. Add the lemon zest over the top and leave to cool.

Cook the Mushrooms and Corn:
3. Slice the mushrooms around half a centimetre thick (i.e. not too fine, not too thick). Place in a bowl and set aside.
4. Remove the husks and hairs from your corn cobs and rinse under water. Place your corn cob on a chopping board, standing up vertically. Using a sharp knife, carefully shave down to remove the corn kernels from the cob. Repeat with the remaining corn cobs, then place the kernels in another bowl and set aside.
5. Thinly slice your chilli until you have the required portion – ½ tablespoon for moderate spice, more or less as you desire.
6. In a large non-stick pan, heat 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil over low-medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for ~3 minutes until soft. Transfer them to a bowl and set aside.
7. In the same pan add another 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, then add the chilli and corn kernels and cook for 2-3 minutes until the corn turns a vibrant yellow colour. Add the garlic and stir through, then add the mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring to ensure the garlic coats the mushrooms and that the corn and mushrooms are well cooked.

Assemble your Salad:
8. Place your quinoa and spinach leaves in a bowl - one large serving bowl or separate bowls per person, whatever you desire (assign ½ - ¾ cup cooked quinoa per person, depending on appetite).
9. Squeeze the lemon juice and drizzle the garlic-infused oil evenly over the top of the bowl(s) and toss to combine.
10. Top with the mushroom and corn mixture and the goats cheese, then finish by sprinkling the sweet and spiced sunflower seeds over the top. 11. Serve, eat and be merry.

Heidi xo