Sunday 17 December 2017

Superfood?... introducing the next supergrain

Move over, quinoa. Susan Jane White says your 15 minutes are up, and introduces the next supergrain

Susan Jane White
Susan Jane White

While it is technically sold as a gluten-free grain, amaranth is, in fact, the tiny seed of a plant. Yep, amaranth is the Lady Gaga of grains. I'm not sure if it's just misunderstood, or enjoys confusing us. Amaranth is probably the most fashionable food in the world right now. It is also dirt cheap, delightfully odd and indecently healthy. What more could you ask of a superfood?

Which got me thinking - the word superfood is misleading. Every food is super. No, honestly. Listen. Recent research by the Future Foundation has revealed that 88pc of us eat convenience foods on a daily basis. In other words, highly processed 'pseudo' foods, or foods pretending to be foods. Am I confusing you yet?

So the term 'superfood' is actually missing the point. All fresh food is super in comparison to the lab-created junk that most people eat every day. According to author Felicity Lawrence, we each neck about 4.5kg of sneaky food additives every year. Gross.

I love amaranth popcorn because my nippers eat it like cereal in the morning, with a splash of cold milk (oh, alright then, a splash of home-made hemp milk. I can't help being weird). It beats sugary cereal any day of the week.

Amaranth is considered a good source of plant protein because of its swaggering portfolio of amino acids. Vegans worship amaranth for its impressive stash of calcium. If you're not getting calcium from dairy, your shopping list will welcome this addition. Most recipes seem to make porridge from whole amaranth because it likes to congeal like live frogspawn. (Oi, don't balk! You eat dead animals, right?) The more fashion-conscious among you will try popping it instead.

Amaranth Popcorn

1-4 servings.

Recently discovered at The Fumbally cafe, this popped cereal is regularly dropped into salads and conversations to impress even the most stubborn of hipsters.

You will need:

4 tablespoons whole amaranth

Patience (not optional)

You'll need a reasonably high-sided, heavy-based saucepan for popping. Amaranth tends to jump out of small saucepans.

I find gas flames perfect for popping amaranth because you need to heat the heavy-based saucepan rather high. Sixty seconds does the trick. If you have an electric hob, just leave the dry pot (no oil) on the ring a little longer to achieve a scorching-hot temperature. Three to four minutes normally achieves this. The heavier the base of the pan, the better the result.

Add a few grains of amaranth and watch it pop over five seconds. If it takes any longer, chuck the batch, leave the pan until it is hotter, and start again. Don't worry - your first time popping amaranth is messy. The second time, like anything else, is a cinch, as you'll know what you're aiming towards.

Once the amaranth has popped, pour it onto a plate to cool and continue with the remaining grains.

Sprinkle the popped amaranth onto granola in the morning, eat it as is with cold milk, parachute it onto salads, or it will keep stored in a jar for up to four weeks. A batch will grant you bragging rights to jump the lunchtime queue at your local hipster cafe.

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