You say quinoa I say keenwa

 

Great in bread and salads, this ancient grain is in such huge demand the UN have designated 2013 as the international year of quinoa – however you say it

FOR YEARS, QUINOA (pronounced keen-wa) was considered by Peruvians – where a lot of it is harvested – as food for the poorest of the poor. Just about good enough to be fed to chickens. But all that is changing because of huge demand in Western countries for this protein-rich grain.

In fact, there have been calls from Bolivian president, Evo Morales for his countrymen to reverse discrimination against “Indian foods” and to make 2012 the “year of quinoa”. It seems hard to fathom why a grain could be discriminated against, but this aversion dates back to pre-Columbian civilisations in the Andes, when the Spanish conquistadors banned its cultivation because of its ceremonial significance amongst the natives. Prior to that, it was considered the mother of all grains by ancient civilisations.

Because it is full of nutrients, essential amino acids and protein – as well as being drought resistant and very undemanding – the UN has decided to pursue its own enthusiasm for this grain and to make 2013 international year of quinoa. All this sounds a bit over the top, but when you consider the millions of dollars countries such as Bolivia and Peru are generating from quinoa exports, declarations like these make a bit more sense.

I am a fan of the grain. I find it’s great thrown into most salads when you want a bit of texture, as you get from nuts, but without the calories. Two of the recipes below feature quinoa and both are wonderful to serve as part of a table full of food for friends and family to dig into. The recipes are from The Modern Pantry, a very trendy London restaurant.

Even if you are terrible at baking breads and fear attempts at it, this lavash recipe is great fun to make and the results are sublimely professional. We used parchment paper and it worked out perfectly well: you simply grab a handful of the wet dough and then smear it over the paper and then load it on to the baking tray and into the oven. The recipe called for sumac – a lovely Middle Eastern spice – but if you can’t find it, some poppy seeds are good too.

The baked trout is always a nice thing to eat and I loved the marinade so much, I made a double batch and kept it for marinating some chicken. The lemon and quinoa salad takes about 30 seconds to make, provided you have a jar of preserved lemons. They are available in good delis and gourmet stores and add instant citrussy oomph to anything that needs a flavour punch. If you can’t find them, lots of lemon juice and maybe a bit of lemon zest will do.

Baked sea trout

Serves 4

3 tsp cumin seeds

1.6 kg (approx) whole sea trout

1 tsp coriander seeds

2 tsp caraway seeds

1 tsp smoked sweet paprika

Good pinch chilli flakes

Big knob ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Good pinch salt

3 tbsp olive oil

Dry roast the seeds in a frying pan for a minute or until you can get a good smell from them. Put them in a blender with all the other ingredients, except the sea trout, and blitz. Make three to four slits in the fish on both sides, diagonally, and then place it in a dish large enough to hold it. Slather the fish with the rub, inside and out and leave for 30 minutes. You can either barbecue this, grill it or cook it in the oven at about 180 degrees/gas 4 for 20 minutes. To serve, gently cut and pull away the top half, then pull out the main bone inside and serve up the bottom side of the fish.

Quinoa salad

It’s advisable to cook double quantities, so you have some for the lavash bread recipe.

Serves 4

200g quinoa

Few tbsp olive oil

Black sesame seeds or nigella seeds

Bunch coriander, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

4 preserved lemons, finely chopped or juice and zest of 1-2 lemons

Cook the quinoa in boiling water for about nine minutes and then drain it and rinse until cold. Let it drain really well, otherwise it tastes too soggy. Simply toss with the rest of the ingredients and season to taste.

Lavash

290g plain flour

200g cooked quinoa

1 tsp poppy seeds

3 tsp fennel seeds

Good pinch salt

Good pinch sugar

50g melted butter

Olive oil

Few pinches of sumac or extra poppy seeds

Mix all the ingredients together (except the olive oil and sumac/extra seeds) in a food processor. It will form a very wet dough. Chill for at least 20 minutes or overnight. Preheat oven to 180 degrees/gas 4.

Line a few baking trays with parchment paper. Take a handful of the wet dough and smear it on to the paper as through you were trying to form a very thin, even layer of plaster. It should be nearly see-through, so you want a very thin, even layer. Do this on each sheet (you may get four to six sheets out of it) and then sprinkle with sumac or extra seeds and a little drizzle of olive oil. Bake until crisp and golden brown. Cut or break into big pieces and serve.

Domini recommends: I was given a very belated 40th birthday present of a beautiful knife handmade by Rory Conner in Bantry. It is an immaculately crafted kitchen knife and feels as strong as a wrench in your hand. A lovely present for anyone foodie. See roryconnerknives.com