One of my favourite work weekday lunches, this is essentially quinoa with chargrilled (burnt) aubergine and tahini stirred through – which is known as Moutabal/Baba Ganoush/numerous other names – and originates from the Middle East. Do be brave and try cremating your aubergines over your gas hob – the results are so worth it and after the first go, it’s really no big drama.
Adding Moutabal, or anything with tahini, to your grains makes them a little more exciting. And let’s face it – quinoa is at the front of the firing line for being bland.
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 Carrots (optional)
Oil (I use a large teaspoon of coconut oil, both to roast the vegetables and fry the onions)
2 (plus) cloves of garlic
200 grams of quinoa
A splash of apple cider vinegar
1 large aubergine
A desert-to-tablespoon of tahini
Preheat the oven to 180 (fan)/200 (conventional)
- Cut up the vegetables, reserving at least one of the onions to fry with the quinoa. Place into the oven to roast for around 40 minutes.
- For the Moutabel: Here’s the fun bit – preparing the aubergine, which needs burning over a hot flame. Firstly, you need some foil to protect your oven top from getting covered in aubergine gunk. So take off the metal grid on your gas cooker to access the little metal disc protecting each gas hob head (I use the biggest hob head to roast). Cover the disc with a piece of foil just big enough to secure it underneath and replace on the gas head.
- Put the aubergine directly on the naked flame, which should be of medium intensity. The skin will start to scorch pretty quickly, but the look we are going for here is charred. The whole process will take about 10-15 minutes and you might want to open the window – the smell is not unpleasant but it’s quite strong. Turn the aubergine intermittently to ensure it is evenly burnt. Remove and let it cool whilst you get the quinoa going.
- When you are ready to make the Moutabel, take as much bitter skin off the aubergine as you can and wiz up in the food processor along with the tahini, salt, lemon/lime juice and garlic (you can also use a hand held mixture but you might want to crush the garlic first).
- For the quinoa: rinse the grains using a sieve, shake to try and remove much of the water (quinoa can have a bitter coating). Leave it to drain.
Fry the onions in a large saucepan until translucent and then add the garlic and chilli if using. If I have them to hand, I often add sundried tomatoes for their texture and piquant oiliness.
- Tip the quinoa in and let it fry with the onions. Add your seasoning, apple cider vinegar and juice of 1 lime or lemon and stir for a couple of minutes to stop it catching. This ‘dry frying’ and adding your flavourings before boiling is important as quinoa needs a little bit of coaxing to go from dull to delicious. As it cooks it will absorb the seasoning.
- I tend to cook quinoa, and indeed most grains, like you would for a risotto, so add water in bit by bit as it needs it. Quinoa tends to need between 1.5-2 times as much water, so if you don’t want to hover nearby whilst its cooking, add 300 ml of water initially, give it a good stir and bring to the boil.
- Quinoa takes around 15 minutes to cook. It’s done when the majority of the grains open up, revealing the spiral kernel. Make sure all the water is absorbed by boiling vigorously towards the end of the cooking time if necessary.
Stir in the roast vegetables and Moutabel and taste for salt/lemon juice. I often garnish my quinoa with red onions and olives, but this is optional.
I am linking up to Alphabakes – letter Q this month – a blog challenge co-ordinated by The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes (this month hosted by The More than Occasional Baker).