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.