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Since I tasted my first crispy, nutty bites of amaranth (as part of Hawksworth Restaurant’s tuna ceviche, sadly no longer on the menu), I’ve been sold. Like quinoa, this under-the-radar seed was once a staple in the Aztec diet; it’s also high in protein, free of cholesterol, and rich in the essential amino acid lysine. As gluten-free diets continue to trend, this could be the perfect time for amaranth. Use it as a coating for fish or chicken, puff it up in a pan and add it to cereal or granola, or, as in the recipe below, boil and then fry it into crunchy fritters.
Amaranth Prawn Fritters (recipe tested by Vancouver Community College culinary arts students (vcc.ca).
Amaranth adds texture and a nutty flavour to these delicious little nuggets. They work equally well as an appetizer or as a main course.
3/4 cup amaranth (or use half amaranth, half quinoa)
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp palm vinegar (or another vinegar, such as rice or apple cider)
1/4 cup tamari
1 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
1 tbsp sriracha
1 shallot, finely minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 tbsp lemongrass, finely minced
6 prawns, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp cornstarch
5 tbsp rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
Put the amaranth (and quinoa, if you’re using both) into a pot and add water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 20-30 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Spread out over a baking sheet to cool (it will be quite sticky). Season with next 8 ingredients. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, cornstarch, rice flour, baking powder, and sesame oil until smooth. Fold in prawn pieces and amaranth mixture.
Heat vegetable oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. (Test by putting a small piece of batter into the pan; it should bubble and fry right away.) Carefully scoop soup spoon-sized portions of batter into the hot oil, and fry 2–3 minutes per side until golden brown. You may need to do this in batches, keeping finished fritters in the oven to stay warm.
Amaranth stars in October’s feature chocolate bar from East Van Roasters. Or experiment on your own with bulk grains from Whole Foods (various locations) or The Grainry (the Public Market at Granville Island)