Monday, February 29, 2016

Never eat food you can't pronounce. Except quinoa. You must eat quinoa.

Quinoa. That's probably gotta be something close to quiche right? I mean, milk and eggs. How could that go wrong? Oh quiche was right but I could be wrong about quinoa. And I was. Quinoa is an ancient seed. A superfood that's one of the few plant based sources of complete protein. Little wonder why it would have been regarded as the Incas' gold, the mother grain.

I've had it in my pantry for the longest time but I wasn't sure how to introduce this to my family on the dinner table. Not as a side but as a substitute for that starchy rice that's a staple at every Chinese family dinner. Lofty ideas. Never attempted. Till tonight. That one special day every four years. 

Now where do I start? I read about bitter tastes, mushy turnouts. That would be a recipe for disaster. So I made sure I had backup. Made sure there was rice grains to be cooked, noodles on standby. With a deep breath, I took out my nearly forgotten white and red quinoa grains and got down to washing them. So apparently the white quinoa has the most neutral and easy to love flavour for first timers but I was keen on trying the red ones too, which have a more earthy flavour. Plus a colour pop would really appeal to one's stomach I figured? 

Quinoa has a natural coating, saponin that gives rise to a bitter taste if not washed properly. How much washing is enough? To be honest, I was none the wiser, and gave it two rounds of  vigorous washing in a fine mesh strainer. I took three quarters of the white quinoa and topped it off with another quarter of the red quinoa to make one cup. The standard ratio of quinoa to water/ stock is 1 : 2. Keep to that ratio and try it out with different stocks. I boiled up a pot of wintermelon, dried cuttlefish, pork bones and chicken breast broth and I used that as my stock. Since that was already pre-salted, I didn't add any additional seasonings. 

Boil it over high heat till the liquid is almost absorbed. That's about ten minutes worth of boiling. Then add in the carrot from the soup stock, raw cubed pumpkin and raw chopped broccoli because these cook quickly. Then turn off the flame and let it stand for five minutes. Don't peek! Then remove the lid, you should see the spirals separated from and curling around the quinoa. Use a fork and fluff up the quinoa gently. Serve warm. :)

The verdict? The jury decides... that this would not be a staple. But this would be a welcome side :) Simple. Versatile. Tasty. And a very worthwhile attempt into eating well. 
First try and definitely not the last!

From our kitchen to yours,
Brenda x

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