Quinoa Soup with Spinach and Pumpkin

Snap, snap…blink, blink… Okay, I am really trying hard to snap out of it. The blog-lethargy that I have slumped into. Maybe it really is the cold (it was a freezing 2 degrees Celsius here in Delhi yesterday) and my brain has frozen over, in addition to my hands and feet. I have been sipping endless cups of tea everyday, hugging the cup in my hands to warm them briefly.

And it isn’t just cups of tea that I have been downing. Winter makes it hard to control calories. This is the time when peanuts (and all nuts and fruits that make up dry fruits) are consumed in large quantities in North India. The most popular way to consume peanuts is to throw a lot of woolens on and around yourself, huddle in a familial group, shelling and stuffing yourself while watching TV. They are the preferred snack at most Delhi bus stops where the peanut seller sits with his pile of peanuts-in-their-shells. He picks the nuts from just under the small earthen pot that has a gently smoldering piece of cow-chip in it, to weighs out hot peanuts that give sustenance and warmth, and also pass time while you wait for your ride to arrive.

Soups do that too – warm us up from the inside out. Winter is also particularly bountiful where vegetables are concerned. There is an abundance of greens: spinach, mustard greens, dill, methi, bathua, kohl rabi, and of course, haak and soutchal, two wonderful Kashmiri greens. Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beetroot, corn, carrots, and tomatoes, add to this bounty, and make this a great season for soup.


In an effort to eat leaner still, I have been turning to soups. Here is one that I have had for lunch a number of times this month. The main ingredient in this soup is the wonderful quinoa, an ancient grain of south America. I loved the bite of the grain – similar to cooked cracked wheat but without the chewy texture. The first time I made this soup I wanted to reach out for a sprinkle of habanero peppers but then let myself enjoy the inherent goodness. But it is getting a generous sprinkle this time. What with all the talk about “a girl’s gotta have her chillies.”

The original recipe uses chicken stock, which I replace with plain water in all my recipes since I never have it. I almost added the fish stock when I made it again today, but sanity prevailed… (Anyone have a good recipe with fish stock? I do need to make room in my small freezer…for peas.) Generous amounts of browned onion provides plenty of flavour for me (and all you vegans out there).


Quinoa Soup
Based on Julie’s Quinoa Soup with Spinach and Corn
Serves 6

1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped (about 3/4-1 C)
a few cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 C Quinoa (use cracked wheat, if you don’t have access to this grain)
1 C pumpkin, small dice
1 C fresh (or frozen) sweet corn
2 C shredded fresh spinach
1 green pepper, small dice
salt and pepper
4-5 C water
2 t soy sauce
dash of ground habanero chilli (optional)

Heat oil in a heavy pan and add the chopped onion. Stir, season with salt and pepper, and brown on medium heat (about 8-10 minutes). Add the sliced garlic and stir another two minutes. Add the pumpkin (or any other squash of your choice), and stir for a minute. Add 3 cups of water (or chicken stock) and bring to boil. Add quinoa, bring to boil again. Simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes. Add corn and cook 5 minutes, adding more water. Now add the spinach in handfuls and cook a further 5 minutes. Add soy sauce and simmer a couple of minute to blend flavours. You can add more pepper, or any chilli powder of your choice, if you wish to spice it up a bit.

A very filling soup that comes together very quick. This week I added some bruised ginger root, the outer dark green leaves of a cabbage to the soup. Potatoes are also traditional in this soup. The addition of tejpatta or a bayleaf, would be good too even if less authentic. I got to taste this wonderful grain thanks to a (blog) friend! (Thank you! All you guys are so generous!) Here’s Manisha’s spicy version of quinoa.



Sheep from the mountains wintering in the Punjab plains

That’s not all for tonight… A little bit about the pictures on this post from my recent visit to Attari village, near the Punjab-Lahore border. I was there for work, of course πŸ˜€ .



Ruin, village Rajataal

We arrived in Amritsar to a sunny day after a particularly cold spell. But it was rural Punjab where my project is. So on we went. The fields were verdant with paddy, and there were patches ablaze with mustard flowers. Bright yellow, that reminds us that spring is not far away, and that we’ll make it through the winter. We had some time on our hands the day we were headed back to Delhi, and chose to drive around the area. There is history all around. Punjab’s prosperity has meant that the locals in the hinterland have the money and the time to think about finer things such as cultural heritage. On way to the recently restored Sarai Amanat Khan, we caught a glimpse of colourful tile work on what looked like a ruined mosque. We got off the car and were escorted by a tall and handsome Sikh, through the brick-paved village streets, to the pretty mosque. Before we knew it, the village sarpanch (elected chief of the village) was in touch on our cellphone and inquiring about who to contact to initiate conservation measures!

There was a school in the village – nothing fancy, but right there within the village; children playing cricket (naturally); and buffaloes chewing cud lazily. I was happy for happy Punjab. Now all they need to remember is to grow more wheat (than rice) and watch that depleting water table (and the missing girls… but there were symbolic lohri celebrations for new-born girls in many parts of Punjab this year).



Recently restored Sarai Amanat Khan

By the side of the mosque, we found this lady making popcorn by the basket loads. She had a dug-in straw-burning oven over which she was popping the corn in a wrought iron pan. The corn kernels are roasted in coarse sand (which helps distribute heat?) which is sieved out in the end. Don’t miss the Sikh gentleman hunk. Needless to add, the sight of city-folk taking pictures of popcorn making were mighty amusing to all, young and older. They could only smile in a humoring sort of way (when they really wanted to roll their eyes ). And I did it all for you, dear reader (especially those of you not from North India).


Making popcorn – the simple way! (Village Rajataal)

34 thoughts on “Quinoa Soup with Spinach and Pumpkin

  1. I love quinoa, too! I discovered it when I first visited Boulder over 2 years ago and have not looked back since. Soup with quinoa is not something I have tried. This looks perfect for me given the kind of food I am subsisting on!

    Loved the pics of rural Punjab. You are sooo lucky!

    I liked the fact that the soup is quite simple to adapt to whatever you may have at hand. The quinoa makes it really filling. Thanks, Manisha, for introducing me to this wonderful grain (and now I am out…).

    You are lucky too – you have the snow and the mountains (and central heating)!

  2. Have always wanted to lay my hands on these ‘exotic’ ingredients like quinoa…

    I am going to try some of our own lesser used grains in soup… such as the millets…

  3. Nice pictures… its been a while since we travelled thru Punjab :-)… almost 6 months now πŸ™‚

    Is cracked wheat the same as dalia? I love using these veggies that come in winter!!

    Yup, dalia it is. And wheat has a similar nutritional profile (same protein content).

  4. OK I think all these great pictures make up for your laziness! My parents are in Delhi since yesterday and told me that it was freezing there.

    Quinoa is something still to try on my list so this is a nice recipe to try out. BTW: I have your rice waiting to be mailed – just need to get off my lazy backside and remember to mail it to you LOL! Soon!

    And the cold wave continues still…brrr.

    (Yes, I am waiting to make that risotto… πŸ˜€ No rush.)

  5. I thought I had escaped the worst of the winter I came back on the 12th, so I was most upset with this cold wave!! The soup looks like just the ticket to warm up – and a very interesting recipe with quinoa!

    It’s also great because it is a one-dish meal! Fewer dishes to clean!

  6. The Sikh gentleman hunk…the tall and handsome Sikh escort…what other effects does quinoa produce?! πŸ˜€ (Or could it be the habaneros?)

    This is a lovely post, Anita. What a pleasant excursion into the Punju countryside; I absolutely LOVE those iron pans that the lady in the last photo is using, and yes, I agree: he has beautiful eyes! Nice work figuring out the timings of the veggies for the soup, BTW. I’ve never had quinoa this way, but I just may give it a try, as soup sounds like a good suggestion for the even colder weather we’ve been suffering through ’round my neck of the woods. 2 degress Celsius- bah! That’s nothin’… πŸ™‚

    Uses for fish stock? I have one that you’d like..tom yam pla (simmered-salad-fish). Plus, the dish uses more of those veggies you have on hand. I have shrimp stock sitting in my freezer that needs using, so I’ll give the recipe a run-through first.

    It’s the same guy… just mentioned twice. πŸ˜€

    The smaller one in her left hand is the sieve, which she uses to scoop up the popped corn and then shake out the sand.

    2 degrees not bah – everything I touch inside the house is 10 degrees – the chair, the table, the utensils, the bed… and the tap water is freezing. You visit here one winter and then tell me – snow outside: Blah (and pretty too!).

    Yes, the fish-stock recipe soon, please. You know how prime freezer-estate is.

  7. Anita, lovely post. Beatuiful pictures, thats how they roasted peanuts too, with sand but when they are with their shells on. Quinoa soup looks gorgeous. Keep Warm!

    And there was now a speck of sand in the popcorn either!

    I have layers and layers on…

  8. When I saw the weather report on news channel about Delhi touching two degrees, i did think of you and Raaga – and all the good stuff you can eat when temp touches so low…But im not complaining, Bombay is as cold as it can get and the floors are so cold, so is the tap water – soup is great for this weather…did you ‘import’ πŸ˜‰ / ‘smuggle’ πŸ˜‰ the quinoa ki dilli me hi milta hai??

    Kind, generous foodie friends make sure I don’t have problems with the customs.

    Around Lohri is the coldest spell of winter; the bonfires are especially welcome. The cold spell will last another couple of weeks…spring is just around the corner.

  9. its my big dream to visit india one day..these photos gave me a good sneak preview of what’s in store for me..hehehe..this soup is gorgeous, spinach with corn!! i’ll definitely put it on my to try list πŸ™‚

    ps, by the way our President Sarcozy is in visit in New Delhi..how’s indian media talking about him…

    Yes, he is! Till before he actually arrived they were discussing his girl friend more…as well she decided to stay back.

  10. I have never had quinoa in soups. I always make upma. Great Punjab photos. And that Sikh hulk is hard to miss πŸ˜‰

    He was so big – we all felt dwarfed!

  11. brrrrr… we had four inches of snow last night. send me some of that soup. and popcorn.

    Stay warm… make some hot chocolate πŸ˜€ .

  12. sipping soup and chai nonstop sounds like an alter ego of me!!i love quinoa but mostly make pulav with it, will try soup next time. nice trip u had into the countryside.are u into landscape conservation?

    It was a good trip. (Yup, cultural landscape conservation, amongst other things…)

  13. U lucky gal! On work to the countryside! I have a bag of quinoa staring at me..I better use it up. Now I have a recipe too.

    We city folk need an occasional respite, slow down, breathe deep… πŸ˜€
    Try the soup, it is quite a basic recipe with much room for variation.

  14. Cool post! Bathua, methi, soutchal and haak! Tempt away, dear! And i like the picture of the lady making pop-corns (or phulle’ as we call them in Punjabi).

    Love this soup idea! Spinach, pumpkin and corn! And yes, a girl’s gotta’ have her green chillies πŸ˜€ Where do you buy quinoa and habanero peppers in Delhi! Modern Bazar? i guess i’ll go for cracked wheat or bulgur here. I don’t fancy quinoa much, i tried it as upma and also in quinoa patties, but the texture didn’t appeal me!

    Ah – ‘phulle’ it is! There was some discussion if popcorn was Indian. And I thought it had to be – if we had popped rice (kheel), popped wheat, chaulai…why would we not have popped the plentiful corn? But our Punju team mate was at a loss for the Punjabi name. But here’s our girl from the Pind with the answer! Thanks, Musical.

    I liked the texture – it had a bit without being chewy. But I know dalia will be an excellent substitute (which I’ll have to use since I went through the entire stock with all the soup making this month!).

  15. Lovely!
    Winter is surely bountiful where vegetables are concerned, and what lovely greens those… nahi?
    And absolutely enjoyed the post about quinoa and the pictures from Punjab!

    I knew you’d like the Punjab trip.

    (And there are a couple of recipes due at your end…one with gajjar, remember?)

  16. Oh no it’s not! πŸ˜‰

    Corn must have come along with potatoes, tomatoes, and our beloved chillies. It is as desi as aloo or mirchi! What Musy probably means is the popped avatar is not thanks to the British. We got the grain and proceeded to pop it like other native grains. And, therefore, a name that is our own.

  17. kutch was bad enough last winter for us….my in laws live there and even the waters at mandvi beach at noon were freezing!! i can only imagine what delhi is like!! loved the post…loved the pop corn pic….

    Global warming…temperature change…Bombay dropped to 11 degrees!

  18. Thank you for taking us along on these trips to beautiful places! Your travelogues and the pictures always make my day.
    The soup looks so inviting…it is very cold here too.

    πŸ˜€ Stay warm!

  19. I’m glad you tried the soup! No, it definitely wouldn’t satisfy a chile craving, but that’s part of the reason I like it–very mellow and comforting. Your version sounds fantastic though! We’re having a rare cold day in Florida, and reading your post makes me want to whip up a batch!

    Yes, it was great in its mellow avatar. I used what I had at hand – but luckily, there was fresh corn which added a nice crisp texture, the perfect foil for soft pumpkin.

  20. Anita it sure if freezing in Delhi, n waking up & pulling yourself right out of bed to go to work is a herculean task to say the least. I love your soup & will surely make it n thank you from the bottom of my heart when I slurp it up!!! πŸ˜‰

    And who wants to spend too much time in the kitchen in this freeze – so make some soup!

  21. 2 celsius sounds absolutely warm! it is a “balmy” -7 celsius here in Ottawa (we average -20 celsius during this time of the year), Ontario (Canada). My sister sent me your yummy soup recipe and I can’t wait to try it. I cruised through your blog page, thank you for beautiful pictures and description of world beyond Canada.

    Welcome to The Party, Soraya.
    Oooh, not balmy at all, my dear. Minus 20 celsius
    outside is very comfortable… try plus 5 inside and you’ll know why we are making such a hue and cry about the cold wave!

  22. I have never had quinoa in soups. Very nice. The photos look very tempting and savory. But still apprehensive of the quinoa :). I wish I cold just make a cup for myself!


    You could πŸ˜€ … this was my first taste of quinoa, and I like!

  23. Hi Anita,

    I tried the Quinoa soup today and it was so delicious. My hubby was asking for seconds.

    Thanks for posting such a good recipe.

    Do you have any recipes for Barley soup?

  24. My hubby is doing a 30 day raw diet & this recipe will really help. Looking forward to making it! Thank you for posting your story the way you did, you had me entertained!

  25. Hi, was just doing some searches on where to find quinoa in Delhi and cam across your blog. Would you mind sharing the secret location as to where I can find it here? I’m in south Delhi but would traverse the city for such a treat!


    Sorry…my stash is courtesy a very dear friend who lives abroad!
    You may try INA Market (opp. Dilli Haat) or Modern bazaar (Vasant Vihar).

  26. Hi Anita,
    I would so love to try this soup, but cannot seem to get to see the pictures, no matter how much I refresh..Could you help me out with this one? Seeing the picture helps a lot!!

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