Quinoa

Following on from the previous post about brown rice, I’ve had several questions regarding quinoa. ‘What is it?’ and ‘how to cook it?’.

Quinoa Plant and cooked grain (left photo Ragesoss on Flickr)

What is quinoa?

Quinoa originates from the Andes and was eaten as a staple by the Aztecs. It is a psuedo-cereal, true cereals are made from grasses; whereas  quinoa, chia,  buckwheat and amaranth all come from broadleaf plants which are free from gluten. psuedo-cereals may be used similarly to cereals to make flours and porridges.

Quinoa is higher protein than most other grains and is the only grain to contain a complete amino profile, making it a good choice for plant based eaters (vegans/vegos).Quinoa and it’s psuedo-cereal cousins are the only grains suitable on anti-candida protocols because they do not stimulate the growth of yeast.

The majority of quinoa is still grown in South America, however other cool-climate, mountainous areas have started to grow it, including Kindred Organics in Tasmania.

As well as whole quinoa grains, quinoa flakes and quinoa flour are also available. Quinoa flakes are a great gluten free alternative to oatmeal and quinoa flour is perfect for pancakes and crepes.

What does it taste like?

Quinoa has a texture similar to cous-cous when cooked, yet a little creamier. It has distinctive flavour which is nutty and just a bit sweet and bit tangy. It pairs well with earthy flavours such as cinnamon, saffron and nutmeg, as well as in sweet dishes with fruits and berries.

Indian Quinoa Hotpot/Corn and Quinoa Fritters

Indian Quinoa Hotpot/Corn and Quinoa Fritters (from Healthy Helpings www.healthyhelpings.com.au)

How to cook Quinoa?

Quinoa can be cooked much like rice. In my book, Healthy Helpings, I use quinoa to make paella, an Indian hotpot (similar to a pilaf) and for a cold breakfast alternative to oatmeal.

Like rice, quinoa should be rinsed thoroughly before use. If quinoa is purchased in bulk it may require soaking and more extensive rinsing than commercially packaged quinoa. If the quinoa you cook taste bitter, it probably is the kind that needs soaking.

Rice cooker:

After rinsing place the quinoa in a rice cooker and cover with about 1cm of water (fingertip to first knuckle), switch on and let it cook. After cooking allow it to sit for a 5 minutes, then fluff with a spoon.

Stovetop- absorption method:

After rinsing place the quinoa in a saucepan and cover with about 1cm of water (fingertip to first knuckle), Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and rest for a further 5 minutes.

Strawberry & Lemon Quinoa with Cottage Cheese Cream/Quinoa Paella (from the book Healthy Helpings www.healthyhelpings.com.au)

Oven:

After rinsing place the quinoa in a saucepan and cover with about 1cm of water (fingertip to first knuckle), Cover and place in an oven pre-heated to 180ºC. Cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest, covered, for a further 5 minutes.

How do I know if the quinoa is cooked?

When cooked, quinoa will go semi-transparent and a small squiggly bit in the centre will be visible. Quinoa shouldn’t be crunchy once cooked.

As an added bonus I’ve included a video from the archives. This is where the quinoa paella in the book started out.

About Michelle

Michelle is passionate about showing people how easy it is to prepare food that is healthy and packed full of flavour. She has just completed her first recipe book, Healthy Helpings: fast food for fit physiques. She began sharing her love of food in 2007, when she produced two series of the online cooking show ‘Healthy Helpings TV’, making fast food healthy and healthy food fast. In 2008 she competed in bodybuilding as a novice figure shaping competitor and she remains passionate about physique sports. She was a 2009 Australian Masterchef semi-finalist, and contributes articles to Oxygen Magazine Australia. Michelle lives with her husband on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, where she loves to search out new ingredients and food ideas from local farmers markets, health food shops and ethnic grocers, and take her two dogs on long rambles through the vineyards. Find out more about Michelle's book