Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Lemony Quinoa with Shiitake, Chicken & Coriander


They say that much like there’s a book in everyone, there’s a marathon in everyone. Well I’m not at all sure who ‘they’ are, but ‘they’ omit a major sub-clause: that many books and marathons should stay firmly put.

Our friend James is running the London marathon this year. The thing that most surprises us about this is the fact that it will be his first. Seriously, he is ALWAYS on a run. Another surprising development is that he has asked us for some advice – not with the running element you understand, but the nutritional one:

What to eat on marathon eve?

Of course, this required extensive expert research so I embarked on my Googling post-haste. Results? NO to anything too heavy, nothing wildly experimental, spicy or likely to make you vom (shellfish etc). It’s too late for carb-loading (exactly what it says on the tin) which you should have been doing for the last few days, so perhaps not too much of that simple starchy stuff. YES to lean protein, complex carbs and vegetables: light but filling. Presumably too, I thought from my now-expert perch, not a dish that would take an age to knock up for someone preoccupied with zenlike mental preparation, with laying out the double-layered anti-blister running socks, the lime-green Lycra number that wicks away sweat - or the novelty giant hand costume.

Gah! It all sounded so worthy and boring, I was stumped…

I turned away from the computer and sought solace in the cookbook library. After an extensive peruse I lighted upon this wonderful dish, from the gorgeous Around the World in 80 Dishes by the multitalented photographer David Loftus (How he had time to compile his own BOOK as well as everything else he manages I don’t know, but we are pleased that he did). If Phileas Fogg had eaten this well, it would have taken him a lot longer to get home.

This recipe has totally cured me of my mistrust of quinoa (something I also thought sounded worthy and boring). It is easy to put together (once you’ve done some dry toasting of sesame seeds and quinoa), it’s balanced, fresh and delicious. It hails from California and you can almost feel the golden sunshine as you eat it (plus, Californians are COOL). The BSG and I had it for a very happy supper (he was on a marathon cook-up for his recuperating sister) last week, and again this week, subbing the chicken out for crisp-skinned baked salmon.

Try it Jimbo – it should keep you light on your feet. And if you don’t manage it in under 3 hours, don’t go blaming me – it’s a silly idea anyway.

Mr Loftus’s friend Domenica Catelli, whose recipe this is, says that it feeds 6 skinny Californians.
Divide by two to sate two greedy Londoners (with some for lunch)
….or one worthy marathon runner.

Lemony Quinoa with Shiitake, Chicken & Coriander

350g quinoa
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
110g shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 organic chicken breasts cut into ¼ inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 litre vegetable stock
2 medium courgettes cut into ¼ inch pieces
Juice of 2 lemons
3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Small bunch fresh coriander
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Toast the quinoa in a dry pan, then rinse it under running water and drain (I would also toast the seame seeds now if you need to and keep them to one side).
Heat the oil in a medium pan, then add the onions and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the shitake mushrooms and cook for a few minutes more.
Add the quinoa and the chicken, season with salt and pepper and add the stock. Bring to the boil, cover the pan, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, until the ingredients are well combined and the chicken is cooked through.
Remove the lid, and add the courgettes , lemon juice, sesame seeds and three quarters if the coriander. Turn off the heat underneath the pan, replace the lid on top and leave for 2 minutes more.
Finish with the remaining coriander and a drizzle of good olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

TIP: toasting the quinoa in a dry pan brings more depth to the flavour