I have been hearing about the use of quinoa (pronounced as keen-wa), as an alternative for grains, for quite some time now. I must mention here that my life-long struggle with size XL and health challenges has got me to do extensive reading on nutrition values of food. I can tell how many calories in a teaspoon of olive oil or how many grams of fat and protein in a raw egg without blinking my eyes. However, I was not keenly curious about quinoa because I avoid grains in my daily diets, i.e. I don’t eat rice and eat wheat minimally.
The primary reason for me to participate in the live cooking and tasting session at Café Pranah was to meet young chef Rahul Arora. Rahul owns Café Pranah, Paranthe Wali Galli and two outlets of Bon Appetit Café. We did some interactions over the social media and I had a feeling that he was a powerhouse of talents. I was not wrong. And at the end of the session, I changed my mind about quinoa too.
But let’s start with what’s quinoa. BBC Good Foodsays quinoa is a superior alternative to starchy grains like wheat and rice, though it’s actually edible seed of a flowering plant in the amaranth family. It has it’s origins in south America. Quinoa is among the least allergenic of all the ‘grains’, making it a fantastic gluten-free choice. Termed as a superfood, this pseudocereal is packed with protein, calcium and magnesium, and therefore is an excellent choice for vegans. A 100g serving of cooked quinoa provides: 120 calories|4g protein|2g fat|19g carbohydrate|2f fibre.
Cooked quinoa seeds become fluffy and creamy, yet maintains a slight crunch. It has a delicate and subtly nutty flavour, versatile for breakfast (as a cereal), lunch (as a salad) or dinner (as a side).
Sounds boring? I thought so too, until I experienced Café Pranah.
Located in Hazra in an easily accessible spot, the café is small by square foot measures. But the place exudes calmness, characters and soul. The beautifully done organic interior is the perfect set up for loving yourself and being kind to your body. Soft Tibetan chants give you company while you wait for the amazing food that to come your way.
Mexican Quinoa Bowl was quinoa tossed with chef’s secret salsa, chilli sauce, minced garlic, bell peppers, black olives and jalapeno. Added to that were roasted shredded chicken and multigrain nachos. The result was me scraping the bottom of the bowl with my spoon. Of course the salsa sauce was the magic ingredient here. But the flavours were skilfully balanced giving the dish a seductive edge. The crunchy bits of nachos and fresh bell peppers were joyful surprises. Chicken was slow-cooked and tender and added values to the tasteful bowl. It was very filling and was rightly described as a complete meal in the menu card. The bowl is essentially neutral. One can add chicken or paneer as per preferences.
Feeling quite full, I had planned to eat half of the Cranberry Quinoa Muffin. The first bite made me forget my plan though. Made with quinoa flour and topped with dried cranberries, it was ‘OMG!’ delicious. There was a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg adding sweetness and an enticing smell. Olive oil and Greek yogurt replaced butter and egg, respectively, making the muffin healthy, yet super soft and moist. It was a hearty ball of goodness and perfect for breakfast or afternoon coffee break. One muffin is bound to keep you full for a few good hours.
Quinoa and Oat cutesy Pancakes were the perfect pick-me-up food. The soft pancakes were non-sweet, but were served with honey, and were garnished with a dollop of yogurt and small cubes of bright candied mango. Looked divine and tasted so too. Rahul did a live cooking session to show us how to make the pancake. I am adding the recipe at the end, in case you want to try at home. I would prefer to come to Pranah to relax with a book and wash the pancakes down with a mint-ginger or a chilli-gandharaj ice tea.
The highlight of Café Pranah experience was Rahul’s creative way of making otherwise dull food heavenly tasty. But, apart from being a crazy good chef, Rahul is also a good man endowed with multiple talents and that reflects in his business. He believes in good food being affordable and therefore the price list at Café Pranah is shock-free. He trains all his staff himself to ensure consistency in quality. The very aesthetic décor of the café is totally ideated by him. It was heart-warming to see such passion and commitment in a young person. He could have continued in a relaxed and high-paying chef job in one of the most prominent hotel chain in the country. He decided to quit and do what his heart really wanted to do- cook great food.
Here’s Rahul’s recipe for Quinoa and Oatmeal Pancake:
Quinoa Oat pancakes
- Quinoa flour 1/2 cup
- Oat flour 1/2 cup
- Egg 1 nos
- Yogurt 3 tbsp
- Baking powder 1/4 tsp
- Water as required
- Few drops of oil to cook
For garnish :
- Yogurt 1tbsp
- Honey 1 tsp
- Diced amsotto few pieces
Mix both the flours in a bowl Add egg, yogurt and water to make a thick batter Rest for a few mins and mix in the baking powder Grill till golden on both sides Garnish with yogurt, honey, and amsotto (candied mango)
Quinoa live cooking and tasting session was organized by First Idea PR.