Dark star: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for black quinoa (2024)

Overdone it a bit? Still reeling from eating more stilton in one week than you’ve had in the entire year? Need a break from all the excess? Then how about some Tofurkey? No, me neither.

If I don’t want to eat meat, cheese or gluten, there are any number of things I’d rather eat than a gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free “Tofurkey Italian sausage pizza” (and, yes, such a thing really does exist). After all, some of my favourite dishes are already naturally gluten- or dairy-free – mejadra, for instance, a dish of rice and lentils topped with piles of caramelised onions, makes it into my all-time top five. And if I fancied a gluten-free, dairy-free and meat-free pizza, I’d reach for the black olives, tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms, and use chickpea flour or polenta to make the base.

What gets me down about this sort of “free-from” food is that its makers feel the need to pretend that it’s just like any other Italian sausage-topped, stretchy-cheese pizza. It’s not, and never will be.

There is, though, one type of pseudo food in which I will be indulging, and quite happily, too. I’m mildly obsessed with all grains at the best of times – be that chunky farro and kasha, or the full stop-sized teff and kaniwa, both of which I want to cook with more in the new year; but it’s pseudo grains such as buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa that I reach for after the season of excess.

A grain is the whole seed of a plant, and true grains come from plants in the grass family (wheat, rice, oats, rye, barley and millet, for example). Pseudo grains, on the other hand, come from broadleaf plant varieties, while having similar culinary uses. They deliver on all sort of levels – visually, texturally, health-wise, taste-wise – and there is nothing at all fake about them. Here’s to keeping it real in 2015.

Parsley, beetroot and black quinoa salad

This take on tabbouleh is gorgeous just as it is, but some crumbled goat’s cheese dotted all over the top makes a lovely addition, as does roughly flaked smoked mackerel or trout. Black quinoa looks beautiful, but by all means use white or red, if that’s all you have (though bear in mind that they need a bit less cooking: white quinoa is done after nine minutes in simmering water, red after about 12). Serves six.

8 small (or 4 medium) beetroots, scrubbed clean but skin left on
3 tbsp olive oil
150g black quinoa, rinsed
100g parsley, finely chopped
15g mint, shredded
5 spring onions, finely chopped
½ medium cucumber, cut in half lengthways, then cut widthways into thin slices
2 tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp allspice
2 lemons, skin, pith and seeds discarded, flesh finely chopped
Salt

For the dressing
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 green chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. To make the dressing, crush the garlic and chilli in a pestle and mortar with half a teaspoon of salt. Slowly pour in the oil, crushing all the while, until you have a thick dressing, and set aside.

Mix the beetroot with a tablespoon of oil and spread out on a medium baking tray. Roast for 40-50 minutes, until a knife goes through smoothly, remove and, once cool enough to handle, don’t peel them, but cut into quarters if small, or 2cm-wide wedges.

Cover the quinoa with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Stir once, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, until cooked but still retaining a bite. Drain, refresh under running water and set aside to dry well.

Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and add the herbs, spring onion, cucumber, spices and lemon flesh. Pour over the dressing and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Mix together and then spread out on a large platter. Dot the beetroot on top, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve.

Quinoa and spinach pancakes with soured cream and chive

Makes 12, to serve four to six.

150g soured cream
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
1½ tsp lime juice
Salt and black pepper
120g quinoa (uncooked weight)
20g unsalted butter, plus 30g melted
200g spinach leaves
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
4cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
30g mint leaves, roughly torn
30g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
120ml full-fat milk
2 large eggs, separated
100g self-raising flour (or quinoa flour or another gluten-free flour
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground cumin
100g ghee or clarified butter
1 lime, quartered, to serve

In a small bowl, stir together the soured cream, chives, one and a half teaspoons of lime juice and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt, cover and put in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and add the quinoa. Cook for nine minutes, drain, refresh under cold running water and set aside to dry in the sieve (shake the sieve a few times, to make sure you get rid of as much water as possible).

Put a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat, add the 20g butter, then wilt the spinach for two minutes. Transfer to a sieve, squeeze out any excess liquid, then chop the leaves. Put the chopped spinach in a large bowl, and mix in the lime zest, ginger, mint, coriander, milk, the melted butter and egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, stir the flour, baking powder and cumin with three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper, stir this into the quinoa, then stir everything into the spinach mix.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then fold gently into the spinach mix.

Put a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and add a quarter of the ghee. Once hot, add three large dessertspoonfuls of batter, to make roughly 1cm-thick and 9cm-diameter pancakes, cook for two to three minutes on each side, until dark golden-brown and cooked through, then transfer to a baking tray. Keep in a warm oven while you repeat with the remaining batter and ghee.

Serve two or three pancakes per portion, with a wedge of lime and a spoonful of the cream sauce.

Oat and quinoa porridge with date syrup and lime

Dark star: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for black quinoa (1)

Pinhead oats (aka steel cut) are oats that have been cut, softened and rolled to produce flakes, and have a pronounced texture that you don’t quite get from jumbo or porridge oats. You’ll need to get this soaking the night before, but that’s second nature to all dedicated porridge eaters. Do try to get hold of black quinoa for this: it looks great in the porridge and retains a bite that white quinoa won’t. Serves four.

225g pinhead oats
500ml whole milk
2 small cinnamon sticks
1½ tbsp caster sugar
Salt
80g black quinoa
3 tbsp date molasses
30g pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
30g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1½ tbsp lime juice

Put the oats in a medium saucepan with the milk, cinnamon, sugar and a quarter of a teaspoon of salt. Add 350ml water, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Next day, add the quinoa and 400ml more water to the pot, stir and put on a medium heat. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 25 minutes, until the porridge is thick and smooth but the quinoa still has a bite; remove the cinnamon if sticks start to break up, or when you can taste them sufficiently in the porridge.

Divide the porridge between four shallow bowls and drizzle the date syrup on top. Sprinkle on the nuts and lime juice, and serve at once.

Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.

Follow Yotam on Twitter.

Dark star: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for black quinoa (2024)
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