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A Cook's Guide to Grains
by Jenni Muir
Chef Douglas Rodriguez is one of my favourite restaurateurs and food writers, primarily because his inspirational 'Nuevo Latino' style combines both common and exotic ingredients using unfamiliar but generally simple techniques. This recipe is based on one in his book Latin Ladles, and treats quinoa as it needs to be treated, with the sweetness of the chicken stock, chillies and herbs off-setting the natural bitterness of the grain. It's great 'flu' food and, although the taste and texture change slightly in the freezer, good to make and store in portions.
Serves 6-8


    • 1 medium whole chickens
    • 2 onions
    • 3 stalks celery
    • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
    • 1 bouquet garni
    • 5-7 cloves garlic
    • a large bunch of coriander
    • 6 sprigs parsley
    • 3 tbsp softened butter
    • 500g / 1lb 2oz baby spinach leaves
    • leaves from 6 sprigs of mint
    • 3 jalapeno chillies, finely chopped
    • 150g / 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
    • 5 spring onions, finely chopped
    • salt and pepper


Rinse the chicken and place it in a large stockpot with 2 litres/9 cups water. Halve one onion and roughly chop 2 stalks of celery and add them to the pot, together with the carrots, bouquet garni, 4 unpeeled garlic cloves and the stalks from the coriander and parsley.

Bring to the boil, then half-cover the pot, reduce the heat right down and simmer for 1 hour or until the chicken is done.

Carefully lift out the cooked chicken, allowing the liquid in the cavity to run back into the pot. Set the chicken aside to cool. Strain the stock, discarding the solids, and rinse out the pot.

Finely chop the remaining onion, celery and garlic. Melt the butter in the stockpot, add the chopped vegetables and saute gently for 5 minutes. Add the spinach, coriander, parsley and mint leaves, plus the chillies, and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Pour in the stock and bring it to the boil. Add the rinsed quinoa and spring onions. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, then half-cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Add some hot water to the soup if it is reducing rapidly.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken meat from the bones and cut into bite-sized pieces. When the soup has been cooking for half an hour, stir in the chicken and allow it to heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.

Cook's Notes
• White rice or hominy are good alternatives to quinoa in this recipe.
• For a quicker version of this recipe, use ready-made stock and 4-5 chicken thigh fillets. Cook them in the stock for 20-25 minutes with the herb stalks before picking up the recipe at the point where the vegetables are sauteed.
• I like to add some finely sliced red chillies to this soup for their attractive colour contrast.


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