While living in Peru I found soup being served in almost any outdoor produce market, in small and large stalls throughout. It is available all year-round and there are no shortage of choices of styles. Recently, while doing some of my own research on quinoa, I got a craving for Sopa de quinua/Quinua kashki, or Quinoa Soup, and made a big ol' batch. Since it was on my mind (and I just finished off my last bowl for lunch today) I thought I would share my version. It blew my family away!
My father and aunt said that when they tasted this soup it reminded them of Papa kashki, Quechua for Potato Soup, that farmers would make after their harvest. The Quechua are both a people and a language, and this language and the blood are part our heritage. Papa kashki is a simple soup, with only a few ingredients, but would awaken the senses. Since I used fewer potatoes than quinoa, I would say this is closer to a Quinua kashki, am I right? :)
Several years back, it would have been difficult to find quinoa sold in the U.S. but today it is everywhere -- even in Costco! I remember the day I first found it in a local store....
I brought home a bag of quinoa and plopped it on the table. My father looks at me and then at the bag. “Look, daddy, quinua!” He smiles but looks puzzled.
“Where did you buy that?” He asks.
“Whole Foods is carrying it! Now, I won’t have to wait till we go to Peru to buy some.”
He laughs. “Why would you want to buy that? It’s peasant food in Peru. Nobody eats that.”
I feel my smile fading. “But it’s so good for you! I was reading up on it and you can get all 9 amino acids out of it, it has this great nutty flavor, it’s so easy to prepare. You could literally live off of this and not have to eat meat. It’s really healthy, daddy!” His fun-making face changes and a genuine, sweet smile passes across his face.
“You know? My mother used to make this for me in the morning. Like the way you eat oatmeal here? She would cook until it was soft, with cinnamon and milk. I loved it.” His eyes seem to cloud over with memory and a smile stretches wider across his face.
Peruvians have an interesting relationship with quinoa. Formerly seen as a peasant food, it is now promoted as a "superfood," and widely exported to the U.S. and Europe. Peruvians abroad are now remembering it, re-embracing it, and re-incorporating into their diets as it becomes more widely available. Indigenous peoples from South America have cultivated quinoa for millenia, known as the “lost grain” of the Incas. The truth is, it was never really lost, the rest of the world simply didn't know its value until now.
Quinoa flourished in the regions surrounding Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia some 6-7,000 years ago. It is said that quinoa was a gift to the Aymara (indigenous) people of this region by the stars so that the people would always be fed. The Incas revered the “mother grain,” known in Quechua as “chismaya mama,” using it in religious ceremonies, as daily sustenance in food and beverage, and even mixed it with fat to eat as as “war balls” when traveling long distances and in battle (Núñez 2008). During the time of the conquistadors, quinoa was first documented in writing in 1551 (Tapia 2012) and seen as similar to rice or confused as being amaranth. Perhaps this explains why Spaniards overlooked the grain as one of minimal importance, even though it held the status of a major food source for the native population. After the Spanish defeated the Inca, quinoa was for centuries thereafter considered a peasant food and not held in high regard (Hernández Bermejo and León 1994). In the 1990s, NASA researched quinoa as a possible sustaining foodstuff for astronauts. In publishing the positive results of the study, quinoa was then elevated to the status of a superfood, a pseudo-cereal high in protein, and the demand for it swelled. This bring us to finding bulk quinoa in Costco today.
Quinoa can be used in many, many ways. Today, I share my personal (not traditional!) recipe for Sopa de quinua or Quinua kashki. I hope to share many more recipes with this mother grain/chismaya mama (really, a seed!) in the future. Enjoy! As usual, please feel free to leave comments below. Buen provecho, amig@s!
Sopa de quinua/Quinua kashki -- Serves 6-8
2 cups tricolor quinoa, cooked
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons aji amarillo puree (found in Latino markets that carry Peruvian products)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
6 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups potato (skin on), cubed
1 1/2 cups queso fresco, cubed
3 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 boiled eggs, chopped
1-2 limes, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, saute the garlic, aji amarillo paste and cumin until fragrant.
Add water, salt and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then bring down to low-medium heat. Cook potatoes until almost tender, about 15 minutes.
Add cilantro and cooked quinoa*. Let simmer another 10 minutes.
Add cubes of queso fresco and chopped eggs. Then add lime juice.
Adjust salt and add pepper to taste.
For a little extra added flavor, aroma, and presentation just as you're serving the soup you can add a mint leaf, or Peruvian Black Mint, huacatay, right in the middle.
*A note about cooking quinoa: Quinoa has a coating on the seed called saponin and it makes it taste very bitter. You must wash your quinoa before cooking it (unless the package refers to it as "pre-washed.' It was always recommended to me that I wash it 3-4 times. You do this by submerging the quinoa in water, rubbing it together, then discarding the water. Repeat 3-4 times. Cooking quinoa is similar to rice. For every 1 cup of quinoa, use 2 cups of water (don't forget the salt!), and cook for about 20-25 minutes.