Cooking Quinoa

19 09 2011

I had my first taste of Quinoa in a Marks & Spencer’s ready-made grain salad with chickpeas, couscous and a variety of other yummy add-ins.  I didn’t know what it was, but I liked it.  A few vegetarian and vegan friends also mentioned cooking with it and I realised I had been blissfully unaware of quinoa as a grain option.  So, in true nerdy fashion, I did a little wikipedia-ing.  Originating from the Andes, the Incas believed quinoa to be sacred, calling it the “mother of all grains”.  During Spanish colonisation of the area, quinoa was forbidden and the Incas had to subsist on wheat as their grain.

Every time I asked one of my vegetarian friends how to cook quinoa, they looked at me as if I were painfully stupid and informed me that you cooked it up just like rice.  I’d like to take this time to admit that I am the worst rice-cooker, ever.  My rice is always over-cooked in a globby mess or under-cooked and brittle to the taste.  I had a friend in college who owned a rice cooker and I found myself asking her to make me perfect, slightly-sticky rice.  We’d cook together and end up sharing our meals, I miss the dorm-kitchen companionship.  Since then, I barely try or I use (I can’t believe I’m admitting this) boil-in-bag rice.  So, for anyone that is a little curious about where to start with the mother of all grains, I thought I’d include a recipe of how to cook it.

Quinoa Recipe- Yields about 5 or 6 cups of cooked quinoa

  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 4 cups water

Directions:

  1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer (if your quinoa is smaller than your strainer, line it with paper towel and pour through- water will get through, but quinoa will be trapped).  Make sure to rinse thoroughly, as there is a slightly bitter taste if you don’t.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the quinoa with the water until it boils.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Quinoa is finished when it has turned slightly transparent and you can see a spiral in the grain.  It will have a “pop” in each bite (I know that sounds crazy, but you will know what you mean when you try it).

Now, I will post a recipe using quinoa here tomorrow, but for now let me say that quinoa is a very malleable grain.  You can use it as a side of rice, a pilaf, in stir-frys, etc.  The sky is kind of the limit.  But if you want a delicious starting recipe, check back in tomorrow.  And if you’re lucky enough to be near to a M&S and want a no-cook option, try some of their delicious grain salads.  Yum.





Chai Tea Latte

6 09 2011

One of the great things about studying abroad is that you get the opportunity to experience the culture and food of different places.  Even when that culture is Starbucks coffee culture- it seems so exotic and special when you’ve seen it on television  but never tasted it yourself.  When I lived in Canada, I developed a small Starbucks addiction.  While my local indie coffee shop satiates my desire for lattes and iced coffee, their Chai Tea Latte left something to be desired.  So I decided to scour the internet for a recipe and make it myself.

I wanted to make it with skim milk that I bought specifically for cooking with, but as life goes, my family decided to drink my skim milk and leave the full-fat milk in the fridge.  The joys of moving back home with your family!  But this is still a relatively low-cal drink!

It should be a pretty quick recipe to make, but I was in the midst of a Jersey Shore marathon (I can’t believe I admitted that!) so I mixed it up in a few stages during commercial breaks.

Chai Tea Latte Recipe (roughly adapted from here)- Serves 1:

  • 3/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 black tea bags
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice

Note: The original recipe asked for cardamom which I didn’t have, so I added a few things and rejigged the recipe to my tastes.  Feel free to do the same until you enjoy the taste.

Directions:

  1.  Boil water and tea bags.  While this is boiling, mix up your spices.
  2. Add spices and milk, stir well and let simmer for a few minutes.
  3. Remove teabags and strain through mesh strainer (at this point, I was surprised how many dregs I had.  Don’t decide to push them through like me and have somewhat gritty tea.  Just clear it out and keep pouring!).
  4. Wait a bit for it to cool (or be impatient like me, and add some cold milk on top so you can slurp it down).

Getting all my spices in order.  The spice mixture could probably be enough to make 2 potent cups (doubling the water, milk and adding an extra tea bag).

Keep stirring.  I got distracted by Jersey Shore and had to run back and stir like crazy to make it normal again.  Safety first!

This strainer was almost full of spices after I’d strained.  Next time, I will do it in batches and remove some of the dregs between pouring.

My finished mug.  YUM!  It tasted just like a slightly less sweet version of Starbucks’ version (although that’s a good thing, in my opinion).  I slurped it down in just a few gulps.  Now, I’m off to do the dishes.  I’ll be sharing more recipes as time goes on, and next time, I promise the photos won’t be crappy cell phone captures!