Kiwicha con leche, Peru's amaranth breakfast drink
My daughter and I have been dodging Covid-19 like Neo in Matrix for over two years now. It finally caught up to us this last week. Since both our throats were sore, I was making a variety of nutritious things to eat or drink that would be soothing to our throats. I remembered I had some popped amaranth leftover from another treat I made recently and decided to make a delicious Kiwicha con leche, or an amaranth milk drink, for breakfast. It's super easy to make and incredibly yummy, filling, and is packed with nutrients.
Kiwicha is the Quechua word for amaranth. Amaranth is thought to have different species that are indigenous to South America (Northern Argentina), to Mexico and Central America, and last, in Asia. The American species were domesticated for their seed heads and the species found in Asia and beyond were domesticated more for their large leaves. The amaranth seed is known as a pseudo-grain, like quinoa, as it is not actually a grain but a seed. In the Americas, amaranth has been found in the Andean region and in Mexico dating back some 8,000 years ago. The domestication of the plant begins some 6,000 years ago.
In Peru, kiwicha is traditionally used to make beverages like chicha or as a breakfast to be accompanied with bread similar to the emoliente de quinua I made before. With more influence from outside Peru, kiwicha and quinua have both found new homes in cookies, cakes, and other sweet and savory concoctions. It's recent popularity has seen new culinary applications because of its superfood status. Well, our ancestors always knew. It is a great source of protein, fiber, potassium, and calcium among other vitamins and minerals. Makes your bones strong, helps to better develop your brain, and keeps your intestinal track running smoothly.
The fun, and potentially messy, part of this recipe is popping the kiwicha. If you have never done it before, I would suggest using a pot with taller sides, as these little babies can jump quite high. You only want to do a tablespoon at a time as the seeds are easy to burn. In these videos below, you can see I am using a small (old) omelette pan that is now just used for dry roasting spices and such, I used a grease splatter protector to cover the pan (not shown) so I could still see while popping.
Tossing just a tablespoon in a dry pan and swirling it helps to evenly distribute heat OR in a deeper pot, use a wooden spoon to stir constantly. to simulate the same process.
Once the seeds get hot, in just a matter of seconds you can see the kiwicha starts popping quickly and relatively evenly. If some are not popped, that is ok.
Once you get this part down the rest is sooooo easy. Trust me! You can use any type of milk you want or no milk at all, sweetener or no sweetener, you can blend your drink or leave the kiwicha intact. It is all up to you! Buen provecho, amig@s!
Kiwicha con leche - Serves 4-6
1 1/2 cups popped kiwicha (amaranth)
3 cups water
1/2 - 1 cup evaporated milk
1 stick cinnamon
Big pinch salt
Cane sugar to taste
Pop kiwicha, then set aside.
In a small pot, add water and spices. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 15 minutes.
In a larger medium sized pot, add kiwicha and toast it until you get the desired color. Be careful not to burn.
Once toasted, using a mesh strainer, pour water over the seeds and discard the spices. Cook kiwicha, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
Add sugar to taste.
Add milk to your taste. and desired consistency.
If the drink is too thick add more water or milk to your liking.
Serve hot or warm.
This can be served with bread, bread and cheese, or bread and avocado for breakfast!
Note: Any sweeter of your liking can be used. We love both maple syrup and agave to sweeten things in our household but also use cane sugar for a different flavor component.
Another note: Some people like to add this to a blender to give a smoother texture to the drink. Sometimes children prefer the blended drink rather than feel the texture of the kiwicha.
A last note: Whatever is leftover can be cooled and stored for several days in the fridge. It is preferable to reheat on the stovetop rather than microwaving as it will develop a skin.