“Eat a cow. Save a Bolivian” – Greg Pollowitz (2013)
I am not really a huge fan of quinoa. It isn’t that I particularly dislike eating it. It’s mainly because of the stupid pronunciation of its name and the fact that I am rather childish about these things and tend to take against things that EVERYBODY else thinks are amazing. It’s a supergrain! It’s going to make you live longer and look better and people will like you more! Clinton/Quinoa 2016! It is one of those foods that people become fanatical about. They go nuts for it. They put it everything – salads, pancakes, cakes,smoothies, soups. I like gin but don’t need to have it at every meal. Exhibit A: somebody actually published this book and it has a four star amazon rating. REALLY?
Plus, it’s a bugger to wash. And wash it you must because the grains are covered with something called saponin which is really bitter and while most is removed in production you still need to wash it well at home. Which would be fine, save that mankind has yet to create a sieve fine enough to stop most of it falling into your sink.* And yes, I know about its ‘health’ benefits but as a committed omnivore I don’t need to get my protein/amino acids from a grain, and I can get antioxidants and other nutrients from the fruit and vegetables I eat.
And so there I was – alone in my anti-quinoa counterculture – when the quinoa backlash started last year. Turns out, demand for this super salad filler has driven up prices so much that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia can no longer afford to buy their staple food. Apparently, imported junk food is cheaper. In addition, such is the international demand for quinoa that land that was used for a diverse range of crops is now being turned over solely to quinoa. Something of an ethical dilemma for the Whole Foods consumer, non? (Now, I do of course know that meat farming and myriad other agricultural practices cause widespread environmental damage and the ‘rebuttal’ article here is also well worth a read. But there is at least some reason here to consider eating quinoa in moderation isn’t there? Spelt and farro and lots of other great grains for salads are grown here in the UK or Western Europe and don’t need to be freighted thousands of miles for a start).
But all of this is utterly irrelevant because yesterday I received a request from a reader (friend) for ideas as to what to do with quinoa. A REQUEST! Now, this made me feel very knowledgeable and important and that obviously outweighs any principles I may pretend to have. She wanted to do something with quinoa that wasn’t bland and which her husband may be persuaded to eat.
So here is Ottolenghi’s Quinoa and Red Rice salad for this is not bland at all, contains red rice which I love and is something that I persuaded my husband (and some other peoples’ husbands) to eat. It is smashing with roast chicken but also great with any barbecued meats or fish in the summer. And, by Ottolenghi standards, it has a reasonably short ingredient list and they are all easy to pick up at a supermarket.
*I have been told that washing and draining quinoa in a French coffee press thing works well and resolves the sink issue. I have not tried it on account of the whole not eating quinoa very much thing, but I can see the logic behind it.
- 60g pistachio nuts (shell off)
- 200g quinoa (WELL washed)
- 200g red rice
- 1 medium onion, finely sliced
- 150ml olive oil
- 1 orange, zest grated and juiced
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 4 spring onions, finely sliced
- 100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 40g rocket
- salt & pepper
- Toast your pistachios until they are lightly coloured on a baking tray for 8-10 minutes in the oven at 170C. Let them cool and then chop them.
- Cook the quinoa and the red rice rice in separate pans, according to their packet instructions*
- Drain the grains, let them steam off any excess moisture and spread on plates/trays to cool quickly.
- Saute the (normal) onion in 4 tablespoons of olive oil for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool completely.
- Combine the quinoa, rice, onion and remaining oil in a large bowl and then add in the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mine needed a bit more lemon juice.
- Serve at room temperature.
Be sure to keep checking the nuts after about 6 minutes - they go from nothing to burned in a second.
Kitchen Song of the Day: Read My Mind – The Killers (Sam’s Town)