A perfect meal for one – quinoa with mushroom and boiled egg

Keeeenwaaaah, a very satisfying word to say I’ve always thought, as it stretches the mouth and opens it up. It’s a very primitive kind of word, isn’t it? More like a noise or a wail. It’s the kind of word we might expect during a piece to camera from comedy legend Miranda Hart, or the kind of sound Finding Nemo’s Dory might wail whilst “speaking whale”… A wailing whale. Anyway, Keeeenwaaaah (spelled quinoa) is big, and it’s everywhere; there have been articles dedicated to its health benefits and deliciousness in everywhere from the Times, to Zest, Marie Clare and all the way through to the Metro. Its superfood powers have been heralded, and the celebs are all tucking in as it starts to appear more and more frequently on the British restaurant scene. So, quinoa, let’s have you then.

I concocted this recipe over the summer, and it’s one I go back to time and again. Admittedly, my tastebuds are a little excitable due to my background (Dutch, Lithuanian and Northern English), so I’ve adapted it to make it a little less… Offensive, shall we say? It takes a little bit of prep, about half an hour, but it’s a meal packed full of goody yummy great stuffs, and health bunny gold stars. I’ll be writing the recipe in mind to feed one (as I cannot stand dividing recipe quantities by 2/4/6 just to feed little old me).

You will need:

  • Quinoa
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • A few pineapple chunks, diced (the little Tesco snack pot sizes are perfect)
  • A generous handful of mushrooms, quartered/quartered and quartered again depending on size (who knew “eighthed” wasn’t a word – another short falling of Oxford and its dictionaries; thankfully we’re not there)
  • A tbsp of mustard seeds
  • A tbsp of pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds/Brazil nuts (roughed up a bit)
  • A tbsp of cottage cheese
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • A beef (or vegetable!) stock cube dissolved in 2cm of boiling water (trust me…)

How to get it to the table without any tears:

1. Clear the kitchen of everything – put the radio on, and that apron of yours, and get out a frying pan and two saucepans. Begin:

2. Fill the kettle right up and boil it. Peel the onion and dice (get the goggles if needed). Dice the pineapple and quarter the mushrooms. Dissolve the stock cube, and if you want to be really pedantic, weigh out the spices and seeds

3. Follow the instructions on the side of the quinoa pack (normally 20–30 mins of boiling in water – be careful when weighing it out, grains can be really mardy if you give them too much or too little water). Make sure you put the quinoa in the pan first – don’t try pouring quinoa into a pan of boiling water, as you will find the water jumps out when the quinoa goes in. Lid on, leave it to it for about 10 mins, then get cracking on step 4…

4. Little bit (max a tablespoon) of oil/frylight in the frying pan, let it heat up (medium heat please) then half the onions go in. Sweat them down for about 3–4 mins, then add in a pinch (of your 1/2 tsp) of turmeric and add the pineapple. Lovely. Turn the temp down slightly, and let the pineapple cook (don’t worry if it catches slightly on the sides, caramelised pineapple sugars will only add to the overall tastiness). Once cooked (try a bit of pineapple; is it oozy and sweet and succulent? Then its cooked, and if you just burnt off your tongue, then yes, its cooked) transfer to a bowl and leave it alone.

5. Don’t bother washing the frying pan; again, add a little bit of oil/frylight alternative, and chuck in the mustard seeds. Let them pop about for 1 minute, then whack the rest of the onions and turmeric in. Sweat them down (again, 3–4 mins), add in the paprika and cayenne, a pinch of salt and pepper, and then add the mushrooms and the pumpkin/sunflower/any kind of seeds. At this point you may find your pan to be quite dry; if so, ladle in a spoon or two of your beef stock (or veggie if you’re veggie). It adds a lovely depth of flavour to the dish, and gets the tastebuds at the back of your tongue working. (Keep it on a low heat, and keep your eye on it through step 6 and 7; keep ladling if it’s getting dry)

6. You now need to boil your egg using the rest of the boiling water; I like a claggy egg, the kind of yolk that sticks to the roof of your mouth, but fulfil your need for runny or hard depending on which way you swing.

7. Take a moment, summon your inner performer, pick up a wooden spoon and sing along to the tune that’s playing (this is optional but should be seen as a necessity during every cooking stint; it chills you out, because you must remember that cooking isn’t hard, and it’s not the end of the world if it all goes a little misshapen…)

8. Your quinoa should be done by now; if it hasn’t absorbed all the water, don’t panic (although you OBVIOUSLY did not take heed of my warning about the mardy grain; give it another five mins, and you should be in the clear, however with a slightly stodgy quinoa). Take it off the hob, and mix the turmeric onion and pineapple mix through it, and then peel your egg.

9. This is the fun bit, the ensemble; put your quinoa mix in a shallow bowl, and top it with your spicy mushrooms, onions and spicy seeds. Looking good.

10. Spoon on your cottage cheese, give it a sprinkling of extra paprika and black pepper, then half your egg and artistically (think Pinterest people) place it on top.

11. Voila. Would you look at that – you have transported the wailing whale of grains into a delicious looking, killer combo of flavours, proteins and textures. I’m a salt fiend, so I’d give it a few more twists of the white wonder of the dinner table, but leave this out if you’re a delicate southern soul.

Hopefully, you will find the quinoa has a nutty and homely hum about it, and is enriched with the warm spices found in your spicy mushrooms. The cottage cheese should clean the slick of yolk from your palette before you get a kick of sweet succulence from the pineapple. As we say in Holland, eet s’makelijk (bon appétit).

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