Friday, 26 June 2009

Red Quinoa & Black Bean 'Chilli' Salad

I've been a quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) convert for quite some time. Not only is it a complete protein in nutritional terms, which is great for non-meat eaters like me, but it's also actually rather tasty. It might not look it - it's a pale grain like any other and I have to admit that I wasn't completely taken with it the first time I tasted it plain (although it does have a strangely moreish nuttiness). But once I began to experiment with it, mostly in salads and pilaf, I decided it was pretty good stuff. Added to which I feel rather virtuous when I eat it because of its goodness!

OK, technically it isn't a grain. Despite the Incas, who considered quinoa to be sacred, calling it chisaya mama (the mother of all grains) it is apparently a wannabe-grain (or psuedograin as the experts would have it). A grain-like crop. It has been a staple food source in the Andean region of South America for thousands of years but it seems that it's significance for our modern diets (and in particular vegetarian and vegan diets) has only received increasing attention over recent years.

Whilst shopping in Paris last month I spied a packed of red quinoa which I had read about, but never seen before. I snapped myself up a little bag and brought it home to London to try out. Actual recipes for red quinoa proved to be far and few between so I came up with the idea of using Mexican flavours to create a red quinoa chilli beans, corn, red chilli. I served it with guacamole and tortillas, but to be honest, the guacamole overpowered it a bit so next time I think I would make a side salad with the avocado instead (and use less lime!).

Here's what I did:


150g red quinoa
1 tin black beans
1 small tin sweetcorn
1 sweet red pepper (chopped into pieces)
2 spring onions (finely sliced)
2 x cloves garlic (I used new season garlic)
1 x red chilli (finely chopped)
Juice of 1 lime
Rapeseed oil
Salt & pepper


Cook the red quinoa. I do this by washing the grains in cold water, putting them in a dry pan for a couple of minutes until they start popping slightly, then covering them with water and simmering with the lid on for around 10 minutes until cooked but still with some bite.

Make a simple dressing with the lime juice, oil, seasoning, garlic and red chilli. Add the cooked quinoa, beans, sweetcorn, spring onions and red pepper and stir to serve. Some freshly chopped herbs may also work well but alas I had none...

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