Many diets are, unfortunately, trendy flavour-of-the-month fads that offer few or no discernible benefits.
Not so superfoods, which are nutrient-rich health boosters that support the body and help to prevent illness. Two of the better-known superfoods are salmon and spinach. But how many cooks would think of amaranth, quinoa, chia and kale?
Quinoa has been used as a cereal for 5000 years and is regarded by the Incas as a sacred food. The quality of its protein is roughly equivalent to that of milk, because of its high concentration of amino-acids. Quinoa is a good source of B vitamins, is gluten-free, can be substituted for most cereals, and is a great replacement for rice. The Food and Agricultural Organisation has declared 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa.
Amaranth is a leafy vegetable cultivated for its leaves and seeds.
The leaves can be used in the same way as spinach.
The seeds, very high in protein, are used in soups and cereals or ground into gluten-free flour. Rich in lysine and magnesium, this grain, cultivated since ancient times, is also a great source of iron and calcium.
Chia seeds contain five times more calcium than milk and have high levels of minerals and fibre. When the little black seeds are mixed with water a gel is formed, which slows down the release of carbohydrates in the body, providing a "full" feeling for longer. Use in smoothies or sprinkle over your morning cereal.
When it comes to beneficial leafy green vegetables, the kale family, of which cavolo nero is a member, is high on the list. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, C and K and is high in calcium. Use as you would for cabbage or stir into soups and stews.
Salmon deservedly enjoys a reputation as an excellent health booster. High in protein, low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is also rich in protein, B vitamins, potassium and other important minerals. Fresh salmon is best but canned is also a good choice.
TRI-QUINOA, AMARANTH AND CAULIFLOWER CHEESE BAKE
I used a Alison's Pantry combination of amaranth and three colours of quinoa - red, cream and black.
1 cup Tri-quinoa & Amaranth mix
2 cups water
1 cup ricotta cheese
200g cauliflower, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely sliced mint leaves
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place quinoa and amaranth mix in a fine sieve and wash. Place in a saucepan with water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes or until cooked and water is absorbed. Cool.
Combine with remaining ingredients. Place in an oiled 21cm x 16cm baking dish.
Preheat oven to 180C. Bake for about 35 minutes, until set. Cut into squares to serve.
Great topped with chilli mayonnaise and served with crispy, oven-fried cavolo nero.
CRISPY CAVOLO NERO
2 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground salt and black pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 cups finely sliced cavolo nero
Preheat oven to 190C. Combine oil, seasoning and garlic. Place cavolo nero in a roasting pan and toss with oil.
Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp, stirring once or twice. Serves 4 as a side dish.
1/2 cup amaranth
1 & 1/2 cups water
1 cup seeded, diced cucumber (peeled if skin is tough)
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1/4 cup each: finely chopped mint, flat-leaf parsley, toasted pine nuts
Dressing: finely grated rind 1 lemon
2 tbsp each: extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch chilli flakes
Rinse amaranth under cold water in a very fine sieve. Line sieve with muslin if not fine enough.
Bring the 1 & 1/2 cups of water to the boil. Add amaranth. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed and grain is tender. Meanwhile, combine vegetables, herbs and pine nuts in a bowl.
Whisk dressing ingredients until well combined. When amaranth is cooked, rinse under cold water in a fine sieve. Drain well, pressing with a spoon to remove excess moisture. Add to vegetables and mix with a fork. Mix in dressing. Serves 4.
DELISH SALMON AND SPINACH PACKETS
Research shows calorie for calorie, spinach provides more nutrients than any other food.
4 cups baby spinach (100g), washed and drained
1 tbsp finely grated orange rind
2 salmon fillets, about 150g each, boned
3cm knob root ginger, peeled and julienned
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cut 2 pieces of baking paper to about 30cm x 30cm.
Place 2 cups of baby spinach in centre of each piece. Top with orange rind, salmon, ginger, orange juice, mustard and pepper. Drizzle with a little oil.
Bring long sides of paper together and fold over a couple of times to make a neat seam. Tuck ends under parcel.
Microwave on high for about 5 minutes or bake in a 200C oven for about 15 minutes. Serves 2.