Grocery shopping on a Sunday night is not a relaxing way to finish the weekend, even if it makes Monday mornings look better just by comparison. Despite all of our better intentions, our (and everybody else's) plans get derailed and so there are even more wayward trolley-pushers, squawking toddlers, middle-of-aisle ponderers and an assorted cast of irritating extras cluttering and chattering at every turn. And yet, while everybody seems to be there right now, they all seem to have visited earlier, too. How else to explain the gaping, well, gaps where stock ought to be, the lack of any meat that isn't mince, the oddments stuffed on shelves when a better deal came along further round and the apparent dearth of any fruit or vegetable which isn't limp or squashed. It's bad when you just need to dash in for some milk and eggs and blueberries. It's so much worse when you're trying to be organised (but not quite organised enough to have got in before the ravenous hordes) and get all your shopping done for the week ahead. And when you're trying a stack of new recipes to kick-start a cleaner diet.
So a litany of excuses, circumstances, could-haves and ought-to-next-times precede this admission. I never knew there was more than one type of quinoa. Never mind the red and black varieties - I'm talking about the common, garden sort. Which, until a couple of days ago, I never realised came in flakes as well as in grains. I looked at the shelves where the quinoa should be. I debated getting something else to make for breakfast. But by then, I had a bee in my bonnet about quinoa porridge, and I was grimly determined. Several boxes on the top shelf finally got my notice. Quinoa flakes. Hmmm.... they don't look quite like the picture accompanying the recipe. Perhaps they puff up when you cook them. Half an hour later, while stirring a bubbling pot of runny gruel, I realised there would be no puffing. Copious amounts of cinnamon and a shake of ginger were added to liven up the flavour in the hope of detracting from the texture. The porridge eventually thickened to a pasty consistency which, while not pretty and perhaps better suited to sticking posters on billboards, tasted much better than it looked. I wouldn't go out of my way to order it in a cafe, but it was perfectly inoffensive and the cranberries, raisins and walnuts provided some much-needed bite. This was what it looked like...
But I still had a hankering to start the morning with perky, fluffy quinoa rather than gloopy, sleepy porridge. In the hope of a corresponding boost to energy levels and alertness, perhaps? And so, armed with a list of all the things the supermarket didn't have on a Sunday night and the virtuous determination to walk home from work on Monday evening, I dropped into the more gourmet supermarket half-way between my office and the apartment. Apparently Sydney has decided to get in shape - quinoa porridge is one of the first recipes featured in Michelle Bridges' new book, Losing the Last 5 Kilos, and quinoa is in short supply.
Armed with two bags of royal quinoa, I set to porridge-stirring with renewed vigour. And it certainly looked more appetising, with the quinoa seeds interspersed with plump fruit. But, oddly, the earlier, runnier porridge seemed to be sweeter and more satisfying than the "proper" version. While the new recipe with whole grains certainly had more texture, it didn't extend quite as far as fluffiness, and even after rinsing the quinoa before cooking, a hint of bitterness lingered.
This was the second version (also eaten at my desk, although this time without the slothfulness of consuming it straight from the tupperware!)
Even more surprisingly, though, was that the taste and texture of quinoa in both its guises crept up on me, urging me to try it again. Just what was that taste that I couldn't quite pin down? Each morning, it grew on me a little more - perhaps it's an acquired taste like coffee or laksa? Although it wasn't enough to keep me completely away from my scone toast!
Still eating at my desk... penguins are creatures of habit!
The answer, it appears, has been to use a mix of quinoa flakes (¼ cup) and quinoa seeds (½ cup), for the perfect combination...
Just like Goldilocks - the third time's a charm!
Are you a porridge person? I grew up on porridge and honey on chilly mornings and find it cosy without being stodgy, while the Other Penguin regards it with the sort of suspicion typically reserved for telephone surveys. "It just looks gluggy", he says, edging almost imperceptibly down the couch. Despite having said the same of risotto many moons ago, he remains entirely unconvinced and unwilling to go near it, much as I do about his milkshakes! There's still plenty more experimenting ahead with the quinoa, both to improve the balance in the porridge, and to try out other ways of using it. If you have any recipes you love with quinoa that you'd like to share, I'd be very interested to hear about them...