At a recent dinner date, the conversation went something like this.
"What are you going to have?"
"The quinoa grain bowl"
"The quinoa grain bowl? But, why?"
"I love grain bowls."
“But quinoa tastes horrible. Why not some pizza?"
'I like quinoa," I say, and I am not lying.
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My mild orthorexia aside (yes, I am working on it), I think quinoa unnecessarily gets a lot of flak in the taste department. Yes, it can get weirdly bitter if you don't cook it right--it is a seed, not grain and is coated with saponin, a bitter substance many seeds contain to prevent birds from eating them--but there are ways to get around it by preparing it correctly. The trick is to wash it very thoroughly in running water for at least a minute to wash off every trace of saponin. Also, roasting it before you boil it releases a lovely nutty flavour; you can even saute it in a bit of butter before cooking.
It is worth taking that effort to make quinoa tastier, I think. While I don't believe in superfoods as a concept, the fact is that, on the whole, quinoa is really good for you. “It is rich in minerals, fibre, antioxidants and is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own,” agrees Dr Siddhant Bhargava, fitness and nutritional scientist and the co-founder of Food Darzee, a health food subscription service.
It also is a good source of manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin B, and folate adds Bhargava. Also, “quinoa contains small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and, in comparison to common cereals, has a higher content of monounsaturated fat which makes it beneficial in the prevention and treatment of diseases,” he says. If you are vegan or have a celiac disorder, quinoa is probably a great choice since it has more protein than regular grain and is naturally gluten-free. Bhargava claims that the seed also helps manage weight as it has a low glycemic and reduces cravings. It is also great for gut health, he adds.
While the easiest way of cooking quinoa is like a regular grain, pasta or porridge, there are plenty of innovative ways to use it. Here are a couple of options
Quinoa Crusted Cottage Cheese with chilly pineapple marmalade
Cottage cheese 300 grams
Quinoa roasted 50 grams
Sumac spice 10 grams
Garlic powder 15 grams
Green chilly 5 grams
Salt 5 grams
Pepper powder 2 grams
Rosewater 2 drops
Rose syrup 5 ml
Sunflower oil 10-20 ml
Chilly pineapple marmalade
Pineapple puree 300 grams
Ginger 25 grams
Sugar 100 grams
Pineapple juice 100 ml
Deghi mirch powder 10 grams
Lemon slices 4 nos
Lemon juice 5 ml
Pineapple chilly marmalade
In a clean vessel add pineapple puree, sugar, pineapple juice, grated ginger and lemon juice. Cook till half reduced on slow flame
Upon attaining gel-like consistency, add chilli powder and let it cool in a sterilised glass jar.
Cut cottage cheese into cubes
Marinate them using sumac spice, garlic powder, finely chopped green chilly, Rosewater, rose syrup, salt, pepper and oil.
Separately, on a nonstick pan roast quinoa grains on slow flame until it gets nutty and crunchy.
Marinated cottage cheese could be either grilled or pan-seared.
Now drench the individual pieces of cottage cheese in quinoa and arrange them nicely on a platter.
Serve it hot with chilly pineapple marmalade.
Courtesy Chef Swapnil Mule, Corporate Chef – Bawa Group of Hotels, Godrej Vikhorli Cucina
Quinoa Kashmiri Pulao
Rice bran oil 2 tbsp
Shahi jeera 1/2 tsp
Green cardamom (crushed) 2
Black cardamom (crushed) 2
Black peppercorns (crushed) 2
Milk 1.5 cup
Water 3 cups
Quinoa 1.5 cup
Saffron (1 pinch soaked in 2 tbsp milk)
Fennel Powder 2 teaspoon
Dry Ginger Powder 1 tsp
French beans diced and boiled ¼ cup
Carrot diced and boiled ¼ cup
Salt 2 tsp
Cashew nuts 6-8
Apple (Cut into small pieces) ¼th
Pomegranate seeds 2tbsp
Heat oil in a pan.
When the oil is hot, add shahi jeera, green cardamom, black cardamom, bay leaves, cloves and black peppercorns and let them crackle for a few seconds and add French beans and Carrot.
Add milk, water, rice, saffron soaked in milk, fennel powder, dry ginger powder and salt and cover the pan and cook on low heat till the rice is done.
Let the rice rest for 10 minutes and then fluff it using a fork.
Quinoa will take 15 to 20 minutes to cook.
Meanwhile, while the rice is cooking, fry the cashew nuts, raisins and almonds till golden brown.
Add fried dry fruits, apple and pomegranate in the rice and mix gently.
Garnish with fresh coriander and saffron.
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