Just as the Incas, Aztecs, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and other ancient civilizations, I like my grains to be ancient too! Our ancestors thrived on einkorn, quinoa, sorghum, freekeh, spelt, farro, millets, barley, teff, buckwheat, amaranth, and other superfoods for thousands of years, and thanks to ancient food grain revivals worldwide, these superfoods have found their way into my lovely home kitchen.
With these superfoods becoming available in the local grocery chains and at the click of a few buttons on grocery delivery apps, it would be a shame for me to not fully exploit this worldly-fare, and indulge in some new culinary experiments of my own.
Today’s experiment involves a superfood duet of quinoa and buckwheat with a sautéed spicy sweet potato dish on the side.
Buckwheat is not a type of wheat, it is also not a grain—but it is a seed. It is called a pseudocereal, meaning, a seed that is cooked and eaten just as cereals are. Pseudocereals cook much faster than other grains like rice or wheat. The hulled and roasted buckwheat seeds called groats, are boiled to be eaten as cereal, pudding, or are popularly eaten as a porridge called kasha in countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. The Japanese use buckwheat flour to make their traditional and wildly popular soba noodles. Buckwheat pancakes such as blinis and crepes are made in many countries.
Quinoa or Quinua (as it is more commonly written in South America), like buckwheat, is a pseudocereal. It has been a staple food in South American countries such as Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile for thousands of years. The Incas considered quinoa to be a sacred crop and even called it ‘chisaya mama’ or ‘mother of all grains’. Arroz de Quinua or quinoa rice is a dish that is cooked just like rice, and served as an accompaniment to other main dishes. Quinoa is traditionally eaten in sweet and savory dishes, in salads and appetizers, purees, soups, bread, in main dishes and stews — paired with vegetables, meats and seafood, and in desserts as cookies, cakes, and puddings, and quinoa flour is even added to beverages.
Buckwheat and quinoa are gluten-free and vegan, and they are rich in protein, nutrients, dietary fiber, essential amino acids, and they both have a low glycemic index of about 55—some of the many reasons why they are dubbed superfoods.
I slow-cooked the quinoa and buckwheat and once they became fluffy, I finished them off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt. I then sautéed chopped spring onions, cashew nuts and sweet potato wedges in olive oil and once cooked, I tossed in par-boiled green peas, and I finished the dish off by searing the sweet potatoes for a quick minute on the highest heat setting to caramelize them. Who doesn’t love crispy potatoes!
Two ancient grains were passed down from one generation to the next for thousands of years, surviving severe weather phenomena, conquerors and colonizers, wars, changes to agricultural practices, and eating practices—two grains from two different parts of the world, made it onto my dinner plate today, and warmed my soul on a cold and rainy Sunday evening.
Undoubtedly, this superfood duet, which is steeped in the richness of taste and food history, was devoured along with second-servings, moments after the picture was taken.