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Vegetable Ragout with Quinoa


Did you know that Henry V111, Shakespeare and Elizabeth 1 did not eat vegetables?  For a period in my life;  three years to be precise ,  I also went without them. The three famous notables had no choice – there were none. But I lost my appetite for vegetables when I was condemned  to peeling potatoes, skinning  onions and slicing carrots for 500 ravenous soldiers, twice a day for seven days; equipped with only a rusty potato peeler or, if I lost the fight, to a faster miscreant than myself - a blunt knife.

Jankers is  British army slang for the official punishment for any minor infringement of military regulations - being confined to barracks, I believe is the correct term. Unfortunately, as a mischievous but then unhardened soldier with the sort of face and matching red hair which attracted the attention of any non-commissioned or commissioned officer who, finding himself out of sorts would only begin to feel better when he had exercised his authority. But I have to admit that on the majority of occasions I probably was guilty.  However , I now look back on those regular spells of atonement  as character building and a lasting and healthy respect for discipline.

It must have been the  after breakfast, five mile jogs in full battle order which kept my cholesterol in order and my weight regular because, for those three years,  I  lived on a diet of fish and chips, sausage rolls, bacon, eggs and beans and Kit-Kat. Deep fried Mars bars and Tika curry sauce for chips had yet to be invented but if they had been I  would have been a fan. 

But all things change. On re-entering civilian life at the ripe old age of age of 21 and starting to  cater for myself, I quickly learned that veggies did not have to be the damp pallid carrots, watery cabbage or a soggy morass of acidy sprouts slopped out by an army cook; they could be tasty, and wonder of wonders, even healthy.

I am of course writing of times past.  I certainly hope that the food served to the modern army has improved over  fifty years. It is interesting that my diet in those days was somewhat akin to what  British youth  presently exist on - without having  the  compulsory jog  to follow. Which is one reason why we are seeing an increase of overweight, unhealthy and undisciplined yobs on the streets. Maybe jankers could be applied to civilians?.

Back then, in the fifties and early sixties, it would have been difficult for me to have found some of the ingredients required for this week’s recipe.  Vegetables such as  aubergine, paprika, zucchini and chickpeas  were  not easily available and  generally unknown; garlic and exotic spices were  rarely used if at all. It was thanks to the influence of  two cookery books - Summer Cooking by Elizabeth David, published in 1955 and European Cookery, published in 1962 (I still have the well thumbed originals) that I began to see vegetables  not only as a healthy must but as an attractive and delicious addition to any meal.

Vegetable Ragout with Quinoa
6 servings.

Inredients

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, halved and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cinnamon stick
1 -2 teaspoons chili sauce (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, canned
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup vegetable broth
8 cherry tomatoes, halved (or 1 large tomato, coarsely chopped)

1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth,
1 clove garlic, minced

Method

Sauté the eggplant along with the onion. Allow additional cooking time as needed to fully cook eggplant adding a little water if necessary to prevent sticking.
Add the garlic, and cook for another minute. Add all spices, including cinnamon stick, and stir for another minute. Add the zucchini, canned tomatoes, chickpeas, raisins, and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the eggplant and cherry tomatoes. Cover and cook on low while quinoa is cooking.
Heat a medium-sized nonstick pot. Add the rinsed quinoa, and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the quinoa is fairly dry. Add the vegetable broth and garlic, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Cook until quinoa absorbs all of the water, about 15 minutes. (If quinoa is tender and doesn't seem to absorb all the water, remove the cover and turn up the heat for a few minutes.)

Remove cinnamon stick. Spread a bed of quinoa on each plate and top with ragout.

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