I cannot begin this post without telling you how much in awe I am of this beautiful and talented person!!! I’m ecstatic as you can tell. Technically I have known her since school which would mean I know her for more than 2 decades now? We actually got in touch when we were in college and then again when I found her blog 2 years later!!! I visited her blog every single day in 2008(I hope that doesn’t count as stalking) and drooled over the food, photographs and writing! Two years later I started this place - a tiny place to document my cooking experiments… I look up to her as a mentor and friend and always ping, message, DM, email her to clear doubts and ask for recipes and tips. So well I do hound her quite a bit… I finally gathered up the guts to ask Priya if she would guest blog right here on Truth Personified and she said Yes! So heres to some beautiful captures, a beautiful recipe and a beautiful person!
I cannot wait to meet her and be lucky to taste some of her goodies and maybe even get some tips on photography! Who knows? I just might get that lucky!
Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Priya from Akshayapaatram…
I’ve known Anu way before either of us blogged, we went to the same high school and later the same undergrad college as well. We were in different batches though and never really got to spend time together. It was again through her comments on my blog that we got in touch again. Her genuineness and curiosity is what makes her blog a pleasure to read. I always wanted to have a friend who also food blogged. Most of my friends love food and we do talk about it lot, but to also blog about it makes you connect in a different way. You don’t have to be apologetic about being borderline obsessive about ingredients and recipes :) You can have conversations that revolve only about food with no other niceties involved and still feel good about it. So I was thrilled when Anu asked me to do a guest post on her blog! This is a first for me and I’m happy its here. I’m sure those of you who have read the stories & recipes she shares, keep coming back for more. So as a first step, I’m sending over a recipe to her space and hope that eventually we’ll get to meet in person too.
The last few weeks have been overcast and the temperatures have been lower than usual. Cloudy skies and rain conjure up the need to wrap your hands around a warm cup of tea and crispy, crunchy snack to go with it. I’ve been on a quinoa cooking spree lately and trying to use it in as many recipes as possible. This recipe is a result of one such attempt that turned out to be most delightful of them all.
Quinoa (keen-wah) though often grouped into the ‘whole-grain’ club, is really a seed of plant closely related to beets and spinach. The ancient Incan’s considered it scared and gave it the name Quinoa which meant ‘mother grain’. I guess the confusion of seed vs grain started early :) In recent times, this South American crop has gained popularity due to its nutritional value. Its a rich source of protein, essential amino acids and contains more fiber, calcium, phosphorous, iron and magnesium compared to wheat, corn or barley. Being naturally gluten-free makes it easy to digest and in general a better choice compared to other cereal grains.
Having been around for such a long time proves that these seeds have learnt to survive. They have a bitter outer coating which keeps birds away from them in the fields but when it comes to cooking with it, that coating needs to come off. Most quinoa that we get in the stores now is processed to take away this bitterness but it still needs a good wash under multiple changes of water (as you would with rice).
The cooking process is very similar to rice as well, but I like to toast the seeds first to enhance their nutty flavor. So before rinsing, toast them in a dry pan for a few minutes until you hear them ‘pop’, and then wash under multiple changes of water. While cooking them I use less water that I would with rice, I’ve had success with 1:1.25 of quinoa to water and that keeps the seeds separate & fluffy.
prepping the veggies - onions, fennel, carrots, ginger & garlic
Quinoa is pretty versatile but it takes some getting used too in terms of flavor, specially if you are a rice lover like me. It has a nutty, slightly bitter and mildly crunchy texture, which now is what I like about it. I try to treat it like rice and substitute it in recipes for tomato rice, mixed veg pulao, chinese/thai fried rice, sambar rice and even pulihora/tamarind ricerice. I was cooking some quinoa for lunch one cloudy, rainy day and decided to make mini cakes with them instead. Chopped fresh fennel bulbs, onions, ginger, garlic and carrots went into it along with some spices. To prevent the mixture from getting too moist I used lemon zest instead of juice.
For a binding agent, I did not have bread or breadcrumbs at home and remembered that I loved the nutty toasted besan/chickpeas flour in these corn cakes. Finally, along with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and roasted peanuts the cutlet came together beautifully!
I made a quick tomato sauce using Deb’s recipe as the base. I used just 3 whole tomatoes and skipped the blanching and de-seeding steps since I was just going to use it as side. But this sauce is fantastic on pasta or on a pizza.
Vegetable & Quinoa Cakes/Patties
Prep time - 30 - 40mins
Cook time - 30mins
Servings - 12-14 cakes
- 3/4 cup - Quinoa, uncooked
- 1 cup -Water
- 1/2 cup - Carrot, grated
- 1/2 cup - Fennel bulb, finely diced
- 1/3 cup - Onions, finely diced
- 2 - Green chillies, finely minced
- 1/2 tsp - Ginger, finely minced
- 1/4 tsp - Garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 tsp - Cumin & Coriander seeds
- A pinch of turmeric
- 2 Tbsp - Gram flour/Besan and coarse Semolina/Sooji/Rava
- 2 Tbsp - Peanuts, dry roasted and coarsely crushed
- 1/2 tsp - Lemon zest
- 1 Tbsp -Cilantro & Fennel fronds, chopped
- 1/4 cup - Grated Parmesan (optional)
- 4-5 Tbsp - Oil
- Salt to taste
- Cooking Quinoa: Toast Quinoa in a saucepan for 5-6 mins on medium heat until it being to slightly color and begins to pop. Immediately run cold water over it and rinse well in multiple changes of water, gently rubbing the seeds between your fingers to remove the bitter outer coating. Put it back on the stove top with a little over 1 cup of water. Once water comes to a boil, season it with some salt, cover with a lid and cook on the lowest setting for about 12-15mins until all the water is absorbed. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and allow it to cool.
- Other Prep work: In the meantime prep all your veggie. In a shallow pan, toast cumin and coriander seeds until they are fragrant, transfer to a mortar and pestle and coarsely powder them. Next dry roast peanuts in the pan and coarsely pound them in the pestle & mortar. In the same pan, toast besan and semolina until they begin to get a light brown color and give off a nutty, toasted aroma. Transfer to a cool plate and reserve for later. Next add a Tbsp of oil to the pan, and saute onions, green chillies, fennel, ginger, garlic with a pinch of salt and turmeric. Once they’ve softened add crushed cumin- coriander and allow to cool.
- Making the Cakes/Patties: Once the quinoa has cooled to room temperature, add in the rest of ingredients, except besan/semolina mix. Gradually add the besan/semolina mix as needed in order to form cakes that hold their shape, its better to use your hands here. Depending on the moisture content of the quinoa you may or may not have to use the whole flour mixture. Taste test for seasonings and adjust to taste.
- Form round cakes about 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Place the formed patties on a parchment lined sheet as you go. Once all the cakes are formed you can either cook them immediately or store them in an airtight container, separating each with a piece of parchment, for a day or two in the refrigerator.
- Heat an iron skillet with 2 Tbsp of oil on medium heat. Gently place the quinoa cakes and cook for 2-3 on one side. Don’t move them at this point, giving them a chance to brown evenly. Once the underside develops a brown crust, carefully flip it and cook again for 2-3 mins adding a few more drops of oil as needed.
- Serve them warm with some a cool yogurt mint sauce/ fresh tomato sauce or just plain ketchup!
Yogurt Mint sauce - Stir in a spoonful of Pudina chutney into thick yogurt. I made a jar full of this and stored it in the refrigerator with a thin film of oil over the surface. Perfect for instant dips, sandwich spreads and bhel puri!
Tomato Sauce - A small batch, quick version of this recipe by Deb, using just 3 medium tomatoes. I did not blanch or de-seed them. The fresh flavor of basil and garlic in this is just fabulous.
Note: If you find the quinoa is getting too soggy though, immediately spread it on a cool plate and set it in the freezer for a few minutes to stop further cooking. Change up the combination of veggies based on what you have at home. You can use crushed fennel seeds, chaat masala, garam masala or any other spice of your choice to flavor these cakes. If you have breadcrumbs available, encrust them in it before pan frying, but be aware that it will need a bit more oil to crisp up.
This is probably the best quinoa dish I’ve made. It’s raining outside as I type this draft and it makes me want to make another batch of these right now! The cakes were crispy, crunchy and absolutely scrumptious, exactly what you would want from the rainy day snack. It was hard believe that it these were actually good for us. I made the quick tomato sauce with garlic and basil to serve along with the quinoa cakes and it gave a fresh, tangy contrast to the cakes. I saved half of the shaped patties in the fridge and pan fried them a couple of days later. This time I served them with my quick mint yogurt and loved the cool yogurt against the warm, crunchy cakes. Any way you serve them, I’m sure you’ll enjoy these.
Thank you for having me over Anu, I really loved doing this and I hope you enjoy these quinoa cakes!