A is for amaranth
Welcome to my first post of VeganMoFo! And, as you might expect, my MoFo journey through the alphabet of unknown foodstuffs starts with A!
For my initial foray into cooking with new ingredients, I chose amaranth. Amaranth has good PR - I keep hearing about how good for you it is, how it's some sort of superfood or something (does it have its own cape?) but I've never been tempted to cook with it until now.
I bought a pack from Whole Foods (where else?!) and cooked some up as an experiment. What resulted was a nasty, thick, gluey mess that refused to exit the pan and tasted none too impressive to boot. It met a swift end in the bin.
Next up, I cooked it for half the time recommended on the pack, and happily got something that looked more like a grain, less like angry slime. I liked the texture, the almost popping candy-esque feel in my mouth, but the taste? Not so much - too earthy, too chewy. I mixed it into my normal oat porridge for breakfast, and it wasn't so bad.
But I wanted to go beyond bad, and voyage into good.
I turned to the ever reliable Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes for an idea, and decided to give the amaranth patties a crack.
It didn't work out. They were too wet and collapsed in the pan, into some minced-up mush. I tried to rescue them by adding some besan flour and cooking it as a loaf - ha! Take that amaranth!
Did I snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? Did I heck.
The mess of amaranth hardened up into a puck-like arrangement, but the taste was more like I was aiming for - the walnuts and pumpkin seeds (my addition) in the burgers played off the amaranth's own earthiness.
But it still wasn't there. What's the one thing that never goes wrong? SOUP! Ladies and gentlemen, I decide to make Amastrone - like minestrone, but with amaranth instead of pasta.
Finally, finally - we have a winner! Here's the recipe:
Makes three to four bowls
One onion, finely chopped
Two cloves of garlic, sliced
One small leek, thinly sliced
One rib of celery, finely sliced
One carrot, finely diced
Half a red pepper, finely diced
One bay leaf
Two teaspoons of finely-chopped fresh rosemary
One can of V8 vegetable juice
330mls of vegetable stock
One heaped teaspoon of tomato puree
65g of amaranth
Half a can of beans of your choice (I used three bean mix)
Squeeze of lemon juice
Small handful of chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
How you do it
Fry the onion for 10 minutes until beginning to caramelise.
Add the garlic, leek, celery, carrot and pepper and cook for another couple of minutes.
Add the bay leaf, rosemary, V8, stock and tomato puree and heat til simmering. Let it simmer for 5 minutes, then add the amaranth and cook for another 15 minutes (or until the amaranth is cooked).
Turn off the heat, add the beans, squeeze of lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper and stir. Top with a splash of olive oil.