Mexicans are the cleverest finding catchy names for things. Let me show you:
A burro - donkey - is the name for an ironing board; a term of mild bullying for people that is not very good at school and if you are a norteño - from the north part of the country - it's also a flour tortilla wrap stuffed with whatever you fancy, yum, preferably meat they would say.
Being enchilado -in chili- means that the food you're eating is so spicy that your eyes are watering your nose runny and your upper lip, in fact, your whole body is breaking in hot sweats as your burning tongue pokes out uncontrollably. Of course that doesn't stop you from finishing the spicy dish in question... what (!), well, self inflicted pain is part of being Mexican ok.
I could keep going but that would steer me in the direction of writing a post on mexicanisms and what I want today is tell you about the delicious snack than inspire my recipe and that is beautifully called alegrías - hapiness -.
Alegrías are made of puffed amaranth seeds and a sweetener which can be either piloncillo syrup (a raw form of pure cane sugar used in traditional Mexican cooking) or honey for a "finer" version.
Have you heard of amaranth?
This wonderful pseudo cereal dates back to prehispanic times in Mesoamerica or what later became the central part of México where it was one of the main crops along with corn, beans and courgettes. The whole plant was used; from the seeds eaten toasted and mixed in tortilla dough, the leaves in medicinal concoctions to the flowers as a tincture.
Amaranth was also used on important religious celebrations, mixed with honey and blood then molded into shapes resembling their gods to be eaten at the end of them by the worshippers - this being the main reason for spanish conquerers to prohibit its cultivation in their ruthless evangelizing efforts.
Its was then almost forgotten. Although it survived to make it's way into alegrías, other sweet snacks or some salads, it didn't keep its status as main ingredient in Mexican dishes.
These days we've realized the enormous nutritional power that this tiny seeds carry, its high protein content and essential amino acids; five times more iron that wheat or rice and twice the amount of calcium found in milk to mention some.
This benefits have made amaranth reach the status of superfood and people have started to include it as part of a better and more natural diet. Being a gluten-free pseudo grain has helped with its popularity in a no gluten era.
The recipe that follows is something I came up the other day when I had some amaranth left from making alegría bars but wanted something more subtle and easy, something crunchy to go over my morning yogurt.
With only 3 ingredients (and salt) its ready in no time and totally addictive. I found myself using it on everything: In smoothies, on top of cupcakes or cookies for my son as a healthy sprinkle, over a salad and by the spoonful (that's my sons favourite way actually, but I won't advise it if you have carpeted floors or don't feel like finding amaranth in every-single-corner of your house)
I added cacao butter to give it more crunch and that chocolatey flavour we all love, pure raw honey for a very subtle sweetness and flaky salt for contrast.
100 gr puffed amaranth
30 gr melted cacao butter
2 tbsp pure honey
pinch of Maldon salt or any salt in flakes
Toast the amaranth in a dry pan at medium/low heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, transfer to a bowl and mix with the rest of the ingredients making sure to mix well to ensure all seeds are coated with a thin layer of syrup.
Spread over a lined baking sheet and leave to cool till its crispy and somehow amalgamated. Loosen it up and transfer to an airtight container or glass jar with a lid to keep fresh. That's it.