The edible Amaranth is a native plant of South America but is very adaptable and can grow almost anywhere with a warm climate. Because of its proliferation it has become integrated in the cuisine of many countries.
Also known as Chinese spinach or callaloo in Caribbean cooking, it is cooked as a leafy vegetable in Africa and is stir fried or steamed as a side dish in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. It is especially popular in Korea where it is known as bireum and is usually foraged and not grown or harvested. It has an earthy, nutty flavour and is often served with Gochujang and Soup Soy sauce-based dishes or bori-bap (barley rice). In Africa, the leafy greens are sometimes fermented to be eaten later.
Amaranth is known to have many health benefits, being high in fibre, iron, magnesium and potassium. Amaranth nutrition is today making the wild plant very popular, particularly in relation to Amaranth protein, with many calling it the “next kale”. The seeds of the plant are known as Amaranth and can be cooked as a gluten-free ancient grain similar to quinoa. The Amaranth was considered sacred by the Aztecs and is said to have aphrodisiac properties. The seeds should be soaked in water for 12 hours before cooking or cooked long and slow.
How to cook with Amaranthus Tricolor
Stir-fried Amaranth side dish
• 1 large bunch of Amaranthus tricolor, washed and ends trimmed
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 5 cloves garlic crushed
• 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
• salt, to taste (be liberal with the salt)
• pinch of sugar
Heat oil in wok until smoking add the greens and stir. When wilting, add the garlic and continue to stir. Add the garlic and sesame oil, a good shake of salt and sugar. The greens will reduce a lot.
Amaranth grain recipes
Creamy Amaranth Polenta
• 1 cup Amaranth grain
• 100g butter
• 3 cups chicken stock
• 4 shallots
• 1 cup white wine
• 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Soak the Amaranth in water for 12 hours or overnight and drain. Melt half the butter in a pan. Add the finely chopped shallots and cook until transparent add the Amaranth grain and stir. Add the white wine and cook off. In another pot bring the chicken stock to the boil, then whisk in the Amaranth gain and shallots. Reduce the heat to simmering and cover. Check regularly until the texture is right. Remove from the heat, stir in the remaining butter, Parmigiano and season with salt and pepper. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Amaranth Porridge with Cranberries, Almonds and Coconut Milk
• 1 cup Amaranth grains
• 4 cups water
• dried cranberries
• roasted almonds
• tbl spoon honey
• light coconut milk
Soak Amaranth grain overnight and drain. Bring the water in the pot to the boil and add the Amaranth grain. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the porridge sputters. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey, cranberries, almonds and serve. Drizzle the porridge with the coconut milk at the table.
Sweet Potato, Amaranth and Leek soup
• 5 sweet potatoes
• 1 cup Amaranth grains
• 2 leeks
• 4 cloves garlic
• sprig of sage
• pinch freshly ground nutmeg
• 1 carrot, grated
• sprig of thyme
• 4 cups chicken stock
• 1 tbl spn butter
Soak Amaranth overnight or for 12 hours and drain. Melt the butter in a pot and add the roughly chopped leeks, carrot, garlic and nutmeg, cook until soft. Add the diced sweet potatoes thyme, sage, bring to the boil and cover and reduce to simmer. Remove the thyme and sage leaves. Add the Amaranth and cook for until the grains are soft. Use a handheld blender to smooth the soup.
• 1 cup amaranth grain
• 2 cups water
• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup finely chopped courgette
• 1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
• 1/4 Tbsp chilli powder
• A pinch of amchoor powder
• 1 Tbsp garam masala
• 1/2 tsp coriander powder
• 1/2 tsp lemon zest freshly ground black pepper
Bring the water to the boil, add the Amaranth reduce to simmer for 20-25 minutes. In the meantime, make a masala. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and onion and cook until transparent. Add the courgette and the red pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the lemon zest, garam masala powder, coriander powder, red chilli, and stir fry. Add the amchoor and black pepper. Remove from heat and set aside. Stir into the Amaranth and allow to cool enough to work with your hands. Make patties and coat in breadcrumbs or Amaranth flour. Panfry the patties in vegetable oil until golden brown.