An introduction to Quinoa

If quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) hasn’t hit your consciousness yet, or if you haven’t quite got around to giving it a try, here’s a little introduction to the seed, recognised by the United Nations as a Super Crop and considered as pretty much the perfect ingredient.

Quinoa is packed with dietary goodness. It’s quick to prepare, gluten-free, easy to digest and great for endurance; the Incas, who have been consuming quinoa for the past 8,000 years or so, were able to run long distances in high altitudes because of this powerful food. It’s also a complete protein as it contains all eight of the essential amino acids.

 

Key benefits:

  • Gluten-free; easy to digest
  • Contains all eight amino acids to make it a complete protein
  • Strengthens the kidneys, heart and lungs
  • High in B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium and vitamin E
  • Ideal food for endurance
  • Has a protein content equal to milk

 

How to use quinoa and prepare it

When quinoa is cooked, the outer germ surrounding the seed breaks open to form a crunchy coil, while the inner grain becomes soft and translucent. This double texture makes it tasty, versatile and fun to eat. To save time, cook a batch as it will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.

It can be reheated with a splash of milk (of your choice) for breakfast porridge. You can add dried fruits, nuts and cinnamon for a sweet treat. Add finely chopped raw vegetables and dressing for a cooling salad, or add chopped, cooked, root vegetables for a warming side dish.

Store uncooked quinoa in a cool, dry, dark place in a tightly closed glass jar for up to one year.

Before cooking, quinoa must be rinsed to remove the toxic, naturally-occurring bitter coating called saponin. When saponin is removed from quinoa it produces a soapy solution in water. Quinoa is rinsed before it’s packaged and sold, but it’s best to rinse again at home before use. Place in a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly with water

Following are three simple recipes, covering making basic quinoa, breakfast porridge and a salad:

Basic Quinoa

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • Seasonings to taste

Directions

  1. Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse quinoa with cool water until the water runs clear. Combine with water in a saucepan, then cover and bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook covered for 15 minutes or until all water has been absorbed.
  3. Remove from heat and let stand for five minutes covered; fluff with a fork.
  4. Season as you like.
For a delicious toasted flavour, dry toast for 5 minutes in saucepan before adding liquid.

 

Quinoa Instant Breakfast

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 cup diced squash
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced carrot rounds
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup soy or nut milk

Directions

  1. Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse quinoa with cool water until the water runs clear.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, then add the quinoa to the boiling water.
  3. Reduce heat to a light boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Halfway through cooking, add squash, carrots, raisins, almonds, and sesame seeds.
  5. Remove from heat and add soy or nut milk.

Quinoa Salad

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 5 cups cooked quinoa
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup spring onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse quinoa with cool water until the water runs clear.
  2. Add rinsed quinoa to saucepan over low heat. Stir with wooden spoon until all water has evaporated and grains emit a faint, toasted aroma.
  3. Add water and a pinch of salt. Stir once to release any grains that may be stuck to bottom of pan.
  4. Cover and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 10-15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed.
  5. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes covered. Fluff with a fork. Combine all ingredients in bowl and serve at room temperature.