Monday, January 09, 2006

Paper chef #14 - quinoa, yogurt, cashew nuts and 'babies'


It is that time of the month again when bloggers from around the world put their intellect to work in order to create exiting dishes around four selected ingredients in an attempt to reach the everlasting glory of winning the paper chef challenge. The ingredients for this 14th edition of Paper Chef were:

Yoghurt (with an ‘h’),
Cashew nuts and,
Babies (human babies being unaffordable these days and with all those scary prion diseases kicking around we were encouraged to chose other species, such as lamb or poussin, or something with the word baby in it, such as baby spinach or baby bok choy)

Since I love the list of ingredients that were given to us by Owen at Tomatilla and by Mrs D and Chopper at Belly Timber, I have decided to offer you a full day worth of kitchen experiments. That means breakfast, lunch and diner. It also means that I have a lot to write about so let’s get started.


French Canadian quinoa crepe with cashew butter and maple syrup.

In my family, as well as in most French Canadian families, THE cooking reference is, and has been for decades, “L’Encyclopédie de la cuisine” by Jehane Benoit (better known locally as Madame Benoit). Her place in French Canadian cooking resemble the one of Julia Child in American cooking. As such, the crepe recipe that my family used, at least since I am born, comes from that book. I know, who needs a recipe for crepes? Well, I do... for some reason, crepe is one of those things that I cook only using a recipe and frankly I can't explain why. Therefore this next recipe is based on Madame Benoit’s recipe but, in order to keep with the themed ingredients, I replaced one cup of all purpose flour with one cup of quinoa flour and one cup of milk with one cup of yogurt. Yes, quinoa flour does exists! And, surprisingly, it smells a bit like spinach... I am learning new things everyday.

Quinoa crepe recipe

1 cup All purpose flour
1 cup Quinoa flour
One pinch of salt
2 T spoons of sugar
4 large eggs (baby chicken)
2 cups of milk
1 cup of yogurt
1 T spoon of vanilla extract
2 T spoons of melted butter

All you need to do is to mix all the ingredients together; let the whole mixture sit in the fridge for an hour or so and cook your crepe in a frying pan (ideally non-stick). The trick is to make them really thin but this batter, either because of the quinoa or the yogurt, makes crepes that are a bit more fragile (I am betting on quinoa) so be gentle.

I also made a sauce with maple syrup and cashew butter to put on top of our crepes this morning. Usually I don’t bother adding anything but maple syrup on my crepes but the addition of cashew butter was a nice one. The slight spinach smell that came from the quinoa flour was a bit weird at first but as we started eating, we could not care less. Fufu also made a nice fruit salad on the side that we devoured as fast as we engulfed the crepes.


Quinoa stuffed crepes with sprouts salad

Yes, you guessed it, we made too much crepe batter for only two persons and had to find a way to make something else out of it. The solution was simple: stuffed crepes. Well, ok, I'll be honest with you: I always make more crepe batter then I need because I love to snack on them and to stuff them. You now know the recipe for our quinoa crepes, so here is the recipe for our stuffing:

Quinoa crepe stuffing (just mix everything together)

1 package of frozen spinach (frozen spinach are always drier than fresh ones cooked at home, but for those who are crazy about the theme ingredients, you could use baby spinach and dry them in a towel)
1 large carrot, grated (ok, use baby carrots if you want)
2 cups of cooked quinoa
1 cup of grated cheese (we used a very local day-fresh 'cheddar' cheese… the stuff we put on poutine around here)
½ cup of grated parmesan
1 pinch of each: nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and cumin (can't be more precise than that but trust your tastebuds to adjust seasoning to your own taste)
Cayenne pepper (to taste)
Salt and pepper

I also made a nice yogurt based sauce to go with these crepes.

Yogurt-curry sauce

1 cup of yogurt (we used sour cream because we already had many uses planed for the little yogurt we had at this point)
1 T spoon cashew butter
1 T spoon peanut oil (Does cashew oil exist?...)
1 t spoon of apple cider vinegar
½ t spoon to 1 t spoon of curry powder
1 t spoon of hot sauce (we used the Vietnamese version)
White wine to thin out the sauce to the desired consistency

As for the salad, it is made of various sprouts: (sprouts are babies!) broccoli sprouts, alfalfa sprouts and snow pea sprouts. It also contained red and yellow bell peppers, a bit of good olive oil, a squish of lemon juice, salt and pepper.

The result was greatly exceeding our expectations. I think it is the spices in the crepe stuffing that made the difference; we were lucky (or skilled enough?) to strike the right balance of flavour.


The lamb extravaganza

I bought two nice racks of lamb for diner. I don’t know what got into me; these delicious baby sheep ribs are too expensive for our weekly food budget. I felt I had to make something really good out of them in order to be forgiven for my extravagance. This is probably why I spent so much time in the kitchen.

In fact, I made a man of myself today and went to work early. And it didn’t take me long to produce. By mid-afternoon, my girlfriend, Fufu, already had a bun in the oven. And I am the one who made it! [insert emoticon: idiotic proud macho smile after bad sexist joke].

The bun in question was a multigrain cashew nut loaf and was more specifically made of:

Whole wheat all purpose flour
White bread flour
Quinoa flour
Oat flour
Rye flour
Buckwheat flour
Ground flax seeds
Toasted Cashew nuts
Instant yeast
Maple syrup (to activate the yeast)

Before baking it, I puffed quinoa seeds the way I puffed wild rice or plain regular rice a few months ago and make a nice crust on the loaf with it.

Since I always make bread by feel and taste (yes I do taste raw dough)I can't give you the specific amounts of each ingredients used but I am guessing half of the loaf was made of the two types of wheat flour. This is necessary to give the bread some fluffyness. Even then, this bread was still quite dense as any multigrain bread should be. Both Fufu and I especially liked the quinoa crust on it: it was crunchy and slightly salty while the interior of the bread was moist and truly tasted like the grains it was made off, not only wheat. The loaf is huge so I guess we'll have to make soup to finish eating it up.

At first I was affraid that the yogurt would mess up the dough but the bread turned out to be perfect... When adding it I was guessing it would do the same effect as milk does in some bread recipe and it did: it helped the loaf to stay moist and probably helped tastewise. It was a wild guess though since I am not usually a very good baker. Ah! the risks we all take to participate to this edition of Paper Chef!

Here is another picture of our newborn baby. We are very proud of this very healthy cutie.

We ate a few slices of this bread with a store bought baby pig (porcelet in French) and duck rillette.

The piece de resistance for our diner was, as you now know, the lamb. We marinated it 24 hours with:

Yogurt marinade

- Yogurt
- The zest and juice of one orange
- Chopped parsley
- Chopped lemon balm
- Cumin
- Coriander seeds
- Pepper flakes
- Worcestershire sauce
- One or two drops of liquid smoke (I know it sounds terrible but if you read the label, you’ll see there is nothing to be afraid of and if used sparingly it has the power to add wonderful flavours to a dish).

The cashew nut crust was made of:

- 1 cup of cashew nuts
- The zest of ½ a lemon
- ⅓ cup of parsley and lemon balm
- 1 T spoon of olive oil
- 2-3 T spoons of puffed quinoa
- 1 egg (baby chicken)
- Salt and pepper

We first put the roast under the broiler and then cooked the meat on a fairly low heat to preserve its tenderness. Just before taking it out of the oven, we finished the browning of the crust by using the broiler for a second time. We served it with baby carrots and a quinoa, wild rice and lima bean salad. Chopped parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper were added to the salad.

The presentation on the plate was quite ordinary despites my efforts but almost everything else was perfect. If I had to make this dish a second time, I would prepare a finer crust and find a better way to make it stick to the lamb. The crust I made was peeling off the lamb at times when slicing the meat and I just hate having to replace bits of crust on the meat when plating. Also, since both Fufu and I like to eat our meat rare to medium rare, that we marinated the lamb in yogurt (which helps tenderizing it) and that we had been extra careful when cooking it (low temperature), I believe the extra fat left next to the bone is useless. In fact, it didn't even have the time to render and it is not very pleasant presentation-wise (as you can see in the pictures). As such, I would remove it next time. The lamb was already extremely tender and while it might help adding flavour I am guessing a much smaller amount would work as well if not better.

We also had a nice salad to accompany our meal. It was made of baby spinach, red and yellow bell pepper, shallot and puffed quinoa. We served it with a nice yogurt dressing.

Yogurt dressing

- ½ cup of yogurt
- 1 finely diced shallot
- Zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 1 t spoon of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- White wine to thin it out

It was a very good salad but I would advise anyone who intend to reproduce it to reduce the amount of shallot that you see on the picture or to replace it with a sweeter type of onion. We first planned to make this salad with a sweet red onion but had none available to us tonight so we opted for shallots, which are generally stronger in flavour.

Finally, and I am still wondering why because we clearly overate during the whole day, I also made a nice comforting desert: quinoa pudding. This recipe is loosely based on a very traditional rice pudding and frankly tastes pretty much like one too.

Quinoa pudding

- 3 cups of milk
- ½ cup of quinoa
- 1 egg (baby chicken)
- 1 t spoon of vanilla
- ¼ t spoon of cinnamon
- ⅛ t spoon of nutmeg
- 1/3 cup of raisins
- 1/3 cup of brown sugar
- One pinch of salt

- 1 T spoon of starch diluted in cold water

- 1/3 cup of roasted cashew nuts to serve

Cook the quinoa with all the ingredients but the egg, the starch and cashew nuts. Take the mixture away from the fire for a good 20 minutes to reduce the temperature, temper the eggs and then mix everything vigorously. Put on simmer stirring constantly until the whole mixture thickens. At this point, you can thicken it even more using the starch (unlike rice, quinoa has very little starch in it). Serve warm or cold with roasted cashew nuts.

Now that all the cooking is done and that this post is almost finished, all I need to do is relax and digest this whole day of quinoa, cashew nuts, yogurt and ‘babies’. Both Fufu and I had a lot of fun playing with these ingredients but I’m glad it is over now… it is too much to write about in a single post… we just got carried away this time I guess.

UPDATE: go see the round up on Belly Timber


Ruth said...

Fabulous post. I love your sharing your thought process with us and the photos are GORGEOUS!!!

I can't even decide which I love best - guess I'll have to try them all.

Rachael said...

This all sounds great, and that was a fantastic post...only...even on the enlarged photos Im noticing that quinoa was not cooked. I mean, its still round little balls instead of fluffy discs. Is that puffing versus fluffing? (LOL)

The crepes are the best idea yet, thanks for the recipes!

MagicTofu said...

Thanks Ruth: we had a lot of fun with those ingredients yesterday.

Rachael: You are right, we did not cook the quinoa before dumping it in hot oil to puff them. What the picture don't tell you is that they are 2 to 3 times bigger after this treatment. The get deliciously crunchy, they not hard at all. This process also increase the nutty flavour of the quinoa. so far I still have to see a grain with which this technique won't work.

Alanna said...

OH MAN - you are sooo stuffing the ballot box! What a keen (er, keen-wa) DAY!

fufu said...

The crust of the bread tastes just fabulous, with the quinoa on the top.
The stuffing of the crepes is great. The spinach and the quinoa are a wonderful match.

yanyan said...

Comparing the breakfast and lunch crepes, I prefere the lunch crepes a lot more. For one thing, I don't like the cashew butter. It's way too sweet for my taste. The lunch version provides a more balanced tastes, with the spinach and quinoa stuffing and the little spout salad and peppers. It's both filling and refreshing.

Raspberry Sour said...

I am so playing hookey from work tomorrow so I can Paper Chef it all day in your fine style!

MagicTofu said...

Yanyan, I know you don't like sweet things that much but you have to admit that the cashew butter mixture was not as sweet as maple syrup! I guess I'll have to get back to making savory crepes instead of the sweet ones.

Chopper Dave said...

WOW! Three meals from our list of ingredients, amazing! I especially dressed up quinoa bread. Well done, wonderful entry.

Than you very much.


Jennifer said...

That is some spread! The bread is particularly beautiful...I'm glad to see your girlfriend giving it special treatment. And I love all of your interpretations of "baby"--very clever.

Kimberly said...

Amazing! You definitely take the crepes... er, cake... for number of recipes on a theme.

I haven't made crepes in a while; I'll have to give these a try!

Lady X said...

You both went all out and the results were fantastic! I especially loved your bundle of joy ;) and the quinoa pudding.

Kalyn said...

Congratulations on the paper chef win, and sorry I am so slow to visiting to congratulate you. Your dish looks wonderful. I especially like the "baby" picture. Very clever.