QUINOA is my comfort food. I have been cooking, eating and serving it to my family and friends over the past five years. It takes the place of rice for lunch or dinner, and can easily be turned into a delicious and satisfying one-dish meal.
The superfood has high protein and fibre content, so you can relax about eating it instead of white rice, which is high in carbohydrates.
Quinoa is not a grain but a seed, an ancient one that the people of the Andes in South America have been consuming since 3,000 years ago. For the Incas, quinoa was a sacred food.
It kept them healthy as it is a rich source of phosphorous, magnesium, calcium and iron. It is rich in L-Arginine too, an important amino acid that benefits the heart. It is also gluten-free.
My interest in quinoa was piqued when I first ate it dressed in chilli oil, lime juice and coconut sugar in an organic restaurant.
The organic shops here all stock it — you can buy red quinoa, black quinoa, white quinoa or a mixed bag of it. Quinoa comes from the same family as spinach, Swiss chard and beets.
Being high in protein, it is a worthy substitute for carbohydrates as in rice and bread, and is good for those on a diet.
I have been cooking it like rice, though it absorbs more water and needs a little more cooking time. I always feel it needs an aromatic herb, spices or even some truffle oil to make it more palatable.
I first had it with some truffle oil stirred into the cooked quinoa, and ate it with a salad of peeled roasted red peppers tossed in extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. It was delicious.
I have since come up with a few recipes to serve quinoa as a one-dish meal for lunch or dinner.
My “Thai Style Quinoa” is done like fried rice, except that the frying involves only ingredients like meat (any kind), chopped long beans, chillies, lots of Thai basil, and fish sauce. I serve it with chopped salted egg for extra oomph.
For turmeric quinoa, you can use the same recipe above but without the Thai basil. Remove the fish sauce and replace it with 2 tsps of fresh ground turmeric.
Heat cooking oil in a pan.
When the oil is hot, add in onion and garlic and fry till the onion looks transparent.
Put in the turmeric and chillies and fry them till there is a nice aroma.
Add the minced meat, marinated with soy sauce and pepper, and stir fry till the meat is cooked, about three to five minutes. Put in the long beans and toss quickly, add salt and then turn off the fire.
Add cooked quinoa to the pan of cooked ingredients. Combine and serve.
If you don’t like meat, you can add cubes of panfried or grilled salmon, seasoned with lots of ground black pepper, and salt.
You can also add prawns.
The writer was a former chief sub-editor of Life & Times, NST. She is also a food writer, having contributed restaurant reviews and articles on food and cooking to the paper, an online publication and a food magazine