It is very rare that either Keith or I totally give up and stop eating a food because we can not stomach the taste. However, the first time we attempted to prepare quinoa ourselves, we threw in the towel after two or three mouthfuls. It was that bad! Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a seed, indigenous to South America. You can find it amongst the barley, wheat, nuts and other cereals in your supermarket readily nowadays. There are two reasons why we persevered with cooking quinoa. Firstly, when Keith's culinary mother from Peru prepares quinoa, it tastes delicious with its fluffy texture, nutty flavour and soft crunch. Therefore, we concluded we must be buffoons and doing something wrong. It turned out, you need to thoroughly wash the quinoa to remove the resin-like coating, which will otherwise make your beautiful dish taste bitter. Secondly, quinoa is uber-healthy and has been recognised by the United Nations as a supercrop. It is gluten free, rich in protein and high in minerals. If it was good enough for the Incas when they built Machu Picchu, then it is good enough for us.
The below recipe was inspired by Keith's Peruvian mother. We used butternut squash as it is in season at the moment. Although, you could use other sweet meaty gourds like pumpkin if you desired. He allowed the quinoa and vegetable to be fully drowned in stock and have all the wonderful flavours absorbed.
- 100g quinoa
- 1/2 of a small butternut squash cut into 1.5cm cubes (about 280g)
- 1 echalion shallot, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 400ml vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to Gas Mark 6 (about 200C of 400F).
- Toss butternut squash with 1 tbsp of the lemon juice, in an oven-proof dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
- Rinse quinoa well in a sieve and allow to drain.
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and fry shallots and garlic and cook until shallots soften slightly.
- Add the quinoa and cook on a low heat until it has dried out and you start to smell a light toasty aroma.
- Add the squash along with the thyme and vegetable stock. Reduce to a low heat and cover.
- Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until all the liquid has been is absorbed.
- Stir in the coriander, lemon zest and juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add more lemon juice if needed.
- Serve with toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top.
Keith served his butternut squash quinoa with grilled marinated chicken (as prepared for the Kebachelor).
In the coming weeks, we are intending on preparing healthy, low fat dishes packed with flavour, seasonal herbs and vegetables. We have a break with friends shortly and there will be a hot tub there folks. Can you imagine our fear? If you are having similar night terrors and sweats due to an impending break, watch our blog and join the journey to a svelte figure (or possibly what will end up being a week of sucking in one's roundy belly).