Juice cleanse leads to quinoa craving

AWESOME! Mustard seeds, curry leaves, green chillies, coriander leaves and onions give quinoa lots of pep. The writer added tomatoes for flavour and colour, and cashews for a touch of luxury.


    Aug 18, 2014

    Juice cleanse leads to quinoa craving

    HAVE you noticed how nothing is ever just "good" these days? Things have to be "miraculous", "life-changing", "the best" or "awesome".

    The sad truth is, most food, treatments and health regimens are far from being miraculous, life-changing, the best or awesome.

    It was with this in mind that I approached a six-day juice cleanse recently, during which I drank six 500ml bottles of cold pressed juices daily.

    Most of the juices contained vegetables and some fruit, and my liquid dinner was a sandy-textured but strangely delicious nut milk made with cashews and dates.

    I took time off work to do it, because my job involves eating.

    Of course, I could not bring myself to just sit around, drink juice and make like a couch potato; so, while cleansing, I also cleaned.

    Every day, I cleared out my home: kitchen, wardrobe, bedroom and living room. Then I had stuff around the house fixed. I did not have the courage to tackle the bookshelves - they will have to wait for the next cleanse - but editing my belongings was all very cathartic.

    The cleanse was not miraculous or life-changing by any stretch of the imagination, but it did what I needed it to do.

    I felt energetic all through the week, which made me think that I need not eat meat at every meal. In fact, the first thing I ate after the cleanse was a peach, and it was the sweetest, most delicious one I had eaten. The second meal was a vegetarian one, full of bright, perky flavours that delighted me no end.

    Since then, I have tried to eat more meatless meals. I will not give up meat and fish completely, simply because I love the way they taste. Plus, I just cannot imagine life without sushi. Or bacon.

    But, some days, roasted beets with feta cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds in a vinaigrette are delicious, and so is a salad of tomatoes, radishes and coriander leaves.

    As I looked for inspiration for more of such meals, I remembered the Quinoa Upma I so enjoyed at Rang Mahal, an Indian restaurant at the Pan Pacific Singapore.

    Quinoa (keen-wa) is touted as a miracle (rolls eyes) seed because it is rich in protein and antioxidants, and is nutrient-rich while being easy to cook.

    Upma is a South Indian breakfast dish of toasted semolina cooked into a thick porridge, with spices and vegetables.

    The restaurant's savvy blending of the two results in a delicious dish full of flavour and nuance.

    So I set out to replicate it.

    The flavouring agents are easy to find, too: mustard seeds, curry leaves, green chillies, coriander leaves and onions. They give the quinoa lots of pep.

    I added tomatoes for flavour and colour, and cashews for a touch of luxury.

    Quinoa cooks pretty much like rice. The seeds are covered with saponin, a natural bug repellent, which can taste bitter. Before cooking, give the seeds a rinse under running water, and rub them like you would rice. I would do this even if the packet says that the seeds have been pre-rinsed.

    The ratio of quinoa to water is one to 1.5, an easy one to remember if you are making less than the quantities given in the recipe.

    I am thinking that I should do more with quinoa.

    A friend of mine adds goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes to her quinoa, then shapes it into patties and pan-fries them. I like adding lemon juice and zest to cooked quinoa, together with chopped parsley. Add some toasted pine nuts and that's lunch sorted out.

    All in all, it is - dare I say it - pretty awesome.