The Critic does not like nubbly stuff. You would think that with his love of spicy food, couscous would be at the top of his list of favourite foods, but no. It's nubbly. And so quinoa, also, is rarely on the menu here in our flat. I've tried reasoning with him (it's delicious! it's innocuous as rice! you like rice!) but to no avail. I've been on something of a clean-out-the-freezer-and-cupboards kick lately and so decided, stubbornly, to give the box of quinoa I found behind my rare collection of unlabelled dried peppers one last try. I don't think I convinced the Critic; though I used flavours guaranteed to pique his interest, nothing could overcome the texture aversion. But in the meantime, I found a recipe to love. To heck with him, I'm making it for myself next time.
In my attempt to woo the Critic to the joys of quinoa, I reproduced Deborah Madison's Quinoa Salad with Mangos and Curry Dressing, using Madhur Jaffrey's own curry powder. You can use store-bought curry powder if you like, and I'm sure it will still be tasty. But Jaffrey's powder is jazzier and gives it a more interesting flavour. It only takes about two minutes to whizz a spice jar of the stuff and it will keep for months in your spice rack. Just don't put it in an old oregano jar whose label refused to come off. I guarantee that at some point you'll end up with a truly funky bolognaise sauce. Trust me, I know.
Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Powder (from Madhur Jaffrey's Ultimate Curry Bible)
2 Tbs whole coriander seeds
1 Tbs whole cumin seeds
2 tsp whole peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
5-6 whole cloves
3 dried hot red chillies, crumbled
1 tsp whole fenugreek
1 tsp ground turmeric
Toast the the coriander, cumin, peppercorns, mustard seeds, cloves and chillies over a medium high flame in a heavy bottomed frying pan. Stir until the spices start to smell slightly roasted and have just barely started to brown. Add the fenugreek and turmeric and stir for ten seconds. Put the spices in a clean coffee grinder or other spice grinder and grind as finely as possible. (I use the small canister for my stick blender.) Store in a cool dark place, preferably correctly labelled.
Quinoa Salad with Mangoes and Curry Dressing (from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) serves 4
1 1/3 cups quinoa
3 scallions, including an inch of the greens, thinly sliced (I substituted two plump shallots, finely chopped)
1 jalepeno pepper, finely chopped
1/3 cup almonds, toasted
For the curry vinaigrette:
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs crème fraîche
2 heaping tsp curry powder
juice of half a small lemon
5 Tbs sunflower seed oil
2 Tbs finely chopped cilantro/fresh coriander
Bring three cups of water to the boil and add a half a teaspoon of salt. Stir in the quinoa, lower the heat, cover and simmer until the grains are tender, about 12-15 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the vinaigrette. In a large bowl, mix together the garlic, salt, crème fraîche and curry powder. Stir in the lemon juice and then slowly whisk in the oil. Sprinkle the coriander over the vinagrette and set aside while you make the rest of the salad.
Slice the mangoes in bite sized chunks. The easiest way to do this is to slice lengthwise through the flat center, as close to the stone as you can get. Score the half that does not have the stone in square shapes, going through to the skin but not cutting through it. Cut off the resulting cubes from the skin. Cut the second half away from the pit and repeat. If your mangoes are good and ripe it will be a messy but tasty job. Try not to snitch too many of the mango bits for yourself as they really are delicious in the salad. If there is any juice, pour it in the vinaigrette bowl.
When the quinoa is done, drain it if necessary - theoretically the grains will have absorbed all the water. Toss the quinoa, onion, mango chunks and jalepeno in the vinaigrette. Sprinkle the almond slices over the top and serve warm.
It really is a delicious dish - slightly spicy and exotic with the mango and curry flavours, but with a good satisfyingly nutty base. I found that the flavours were even nicer when I finished the remains the next day at lunch. However, if you are making it in advance, add the almonds only at the last minute as otherwise they will lose their crunchiness.