How about a Persian-inspired warm quinoa recipe today? Only a few years ago I hadn’t even heard the name of quinoa but now I regularly cook with it. What makes it really great to cook with is that it can be used pretty much in the same way as rice.
On a recent visit to Sweden I saw a beautiful chubby smoked trout in the deli section of a supermarket and just couldn’t go home without it. My gorgeous trout had to sit in the fridge for a couple of weeks while I sorted other stuff and waited for me to make up my mind how to give it the star role in a dish because it deserved nothing less.
Yesterday I decided it was time to say hello to the my Swedish trout. I put it on a plate and it looked so pretty I wanted to eat it with my eyes! It smelled wonderfully smokey and had nice firm flesh that flaked easily with a fork. How about having it with quinoa? “We’ll give it a try”, said Critic No.1 & Critic No.2.
Iranians usually eat fish with herby green rice. One green rice dish, baghali polo, combines the flavours of dill and broad beans. Another, sabzi polo, is made with lots of herbs (coriander, parsley, Persian chives, fenugreek greens and dill) and baby garlic.
Some smoked trout (and other fish) I had eaten in Iran I can really describe as fabulous. In the Caspian Sea regions of Iran they know how to smoke their fish. They even know how to smoke their rice!
I will write about smoked rice soon but not now. Writing about smoked rice to me is like writing poetry. You can’t do it between sorting the laundry and keeping up with the news of the nuclear talks going on between Iran and the world powers in Vienna now. So the story has to wait for a better day.
Since I had no rice at home I decided to go Persian with quinoa that I had, well, a little Persian. I cooked it in stock flavoured with dill and new garlic.
Using new garlic was a good idea because I didn’t want the garlic flavour to overpower the fish but I also needed it to balance the aroma and flavour. I used almost the whole head and the scent was still mild and subtle.
Broad beans would have worked very nicely in this dish but I didn’t have any. Plain quinoa and dill wouldn’t look that good. I needed more green. I love to balance colours in my dishes, as much as I can. Petit pois could do the job and I always have a bag or two in the freezer. So petit pois it was!
Critics No.1 & 2 both gave very favourable reviews. Both are very picky and will tell me very frankly if something doesn’t work in a dish so I always ask their opinion when I make something new. Sometimes I have to wait for a while because they are too busy eating and won’t speak up!
This recipe will work very nicely with any kind of flaky smoked fish. Salmon will be just as good, if not better.
To serve 4 – 6 you will need the following ingredients:
- 1 large whole smoked trout (about 600g)
- 300g white quinoa
- 1 litre water or stock (fish or vegetable)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 11/2 tbs dried dill
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 20g butter
- 1 head fresh garlic (or three or four cloves of dry garlic), cloves peeled and thinly sliced
- 60g fresh dill, stalks removed and roughly chopped
- 250g petit pois or double-shelled baby broad beans
- Bring the water/stock to the boil with the dried dill and salt.
- Rinse quinoa in a fine sieve and drain well if it isn’t already washed. Unwashed quinoa can sometimes taste soapy. Add the quinoa to the boiling water/stock with the oil (and butter if using) and stir well. Cook over medium-low heat for five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further ten minutes or until water or stock has completely been absorbed. Don’t forget to give it a gentle stir now and then while it is cooking.
- Meanwhile, gently pull away the skin from the fish. Use a fork to lift off chunks of flesh from the bones.
- Stir the dill and petit pois (or double-shelled baby broad beans) into the quinoa and transfer to a lidded frying pan. Arrange the chunks of fish on top of the quinoa. Wrap the lid in a clean tea towel and cover the pan. Let the quinoa steam for ten to fifteen minutes on very low heat. Uncover and garnish with a sprig of mint. Serve warm or cold with lots of lemon or lime to squeeze over the dish.