Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Familiar Foods

We begin with 'quinoa' (pronounced 'keen-wah', not that it matters) as it is high in 'nutrition', especially protein. This meaning it is the most useful grain to have in store when it comes to what I like to call 'times of crisis' when food supplies might be short and we have to find other ways of keeping the family healthy than just serve 'meat and two veg'. Being gluten free, also useful for those with this food intolerance. It can be used as an alternative to rice when making certain dishes.
As another of those grains that needs a 'bit of a lift', spices and lemons are added to the quinoa to give flavour.
The recipe serves six, but if you work on 1 oz (25g) quinoa per person, you can make only as much as you need, adjusting the other ingredients - more or less - to suit your taste.

Quinoa Salad: serves 6
6 oz (175g) quinoa, rinsed then drained
6 tblsp olive oil
juice of 2 limes (or 1 lemon)
juice of 1 orange
2 fresh green chillies, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt, to taste
half a cucumber
1 large tomato, cubed
4 spring onions, sliced
2 tblsp each fresh chopped mint and parsley
Put the rinsed quinoa into a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 - 12 minutes until tender. Drain and leave to get cool.
Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking the oil, citrus juices and garlic together, then stir in the chillies and salt to taste.
Cut the cucumber in half (you can remove the peel if you wish but I like to keep it on), and scoop the seeds from the centre using a teaspoon. Dice the cucumber, then add to the quinoa with the prepared tomato, spring onions and herbs. Toss well to mix together, then pour the dressing over and toss again.
Can be eaten immediately, or left to chill in the fridge for an hour to allow flavours to be absorbed.

Cracked wheat (aka bulgar wheat) makes this delicious salad, together with ingredients that most of us have in store. If we have no oranges, we could use canned mandarin oranges. The three recipes given today all have similar ingredients, and one grain could be substituted for another in all dishes. We could even play around and use some ingredients from one and some from another (and another) to make a salad that's entirely our own. The recipes uses a green bell pepper, but no reason why a red, orange or yellow one couldn't be used. The reason it suggests green is more the appearance of the dish than the flavour it gives.

Orange and Bulgar Salad: serves 6
5 oz (150g) bulgar wheat
1 pint (600ml) water
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cubed
a quarter of a cucumber, diced
2 tblsp fresh chopped mint
1 - 2 oz (25 - 50g) flaked almonds, toasted
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 large orange, peeled and segmented
salt and pepper
Put the bulgar wheat into a pan with the water, bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, until tender OR - to save fuel - put the bulgar into a bowl, pour over boiling water, cover and leave to soak for half an hour. By then most of the water should have been absorbed. Drain off any surplus.
Put the green pepper, cucumber, mint, and almonds into a bowl, stir in the bulgar and add the lemon zest and juice. Add the orange segments to the mixture (together with any juice that may have come from the orange whilst peeling and segmenting), add seasoning to taste, and toss gently to combine. Serve as a side salod with cooked meats or what you will.

A similar dish to the above, but with fewer ingredients is made using couscous - the recipe below being a variation of the Tabbouleh. Because couscous has no flavour of its own, it is much improved by soaking in a vegetable or chicken stock, but as long as there are plenty of herbs added, together with the dressing, plain water could be used instead. If the salad is intended to be kept overnight before being eaten, the best made with water or vegetable stock and not a meat-based one.
'Tabbouleh' and similar grain based dishes are often served in lettuce 'cups' (Little Gem lettuce is the one to use for this), so that when filled with the grain salad, it can be picked up in the hand and eaten at the wander.

Couscous Salad: serves 4
10 oz (275g) couscous
8 fl oz (225ml) boiling water, vegetable or chicken stock
handful black olives - stoned and halved or sliced (opt)
1 oz (25g) flaked almonds, pref. toasted
4 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp orange juice
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley (more if you wish)
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander or mint (more if you wish)
pinch ground cumin (opt)
good pinch cayenne pepper
Put the couscous into a bowl, then pour over the boiling stock. Give it a stir with a fork, then cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes to allow the stock to be absorbed. Fluff up with a fork, then add the rest of the ingredients, stirring the lot together. Chill for a few hours to allow flavours to develop, then serve. This type of dish (as the one above) eats well with kebabs.