If I were allowed only one grain to eat it would be quinoa. Ever since first trying this light, neutral and nutritious seed (for that is what it truly is), I have been completely hooked. Not enough that it is the food equivalent to a pair of nude heels (it goes with just about everything) it also has the bonus of absorbing flavours beautifully and being incredibly good for you. I’ve spoken before about the nutritional benefits of eating quinoa: it’s an excellent source of protein and packed full of riboflavins, iron, potassium and b vitamins. Yet my other, more profound, love for it is that (like a lot of things in life) the more you work with it, the greater the results.
I’ve used quinoa in all manner of things: as a breakfast food, as a stuffing for roasts, as a binder, as part of a bread mix, in Ottoman inspired tagines and taboullehs and in salads, much like the one below. There are so many options and some of the best are the more unexpected: Chocolate Chip Quinoa Cookies from Ross Dobson’s Wholefood Kitchen, Quinoa, Kale and Chilli Stirfry from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, this comforting dish of Warm & Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. And, finally, this incredibly delicious salad, packed full of intense flavours, made sweet and sour by the inclusion of raisins, apricots and sundried tomatoes, respectively. I love the medley of flavours and colours that are produced and it has a certain balance that makes it equally appealing whatever the weather. On a hot day I like to serve it with a little homemade hummus, some chargrilled peppers and a green salad. If it’s cold outside it makes a lovely accompaniment to grilled lamb or chicken, the sweet sour elements of the dried fruit and the delicacy of the quinoa making a satisfying base to the meat.
SWEET AND SOUR QUINOA
500ml vegetable stock
50g dried apricots
75g sundried tomatoes
50g sunflower, pumpkin seeds and pine nuts, mixed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
A small bunch of flat leaf parsley
A small bunch of chives
Place the quinoa in a large saucepan and pour over the stock, then cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the stock. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and then set aside.
Place the mixed seeds and pine nuts in a dry frying pan and heat over a medium-hot flame for around 6 - 8 minutes or until golden and toasted, shaking the pan every few minutes to stop the seeds from catching. Finely slice the apricots and sundried tomatoes and chop the fresh herbs. Transfer the cooked quinoa to a large serving bowl. Add the raisins, apricots, tomatoes, seeds and pine nuts and herbs to the quinoa and stir together. Pour over the olive oil and lemon juice, season well and toss together before serving.