Quinoa seems to be almost everywhere, everyone's cooking it but still not found in many cafes and restaurants which I find a bit strange. With so many people incorporating it into their daily diet, quinoa's popularity has grown pretty fast in a short time.
Quinoa pronounced 'kinwa' has been cultivated in the Andean mountain regions of Peru, Chile and Bolivia for over 5,000 years, and it has been a staple food in the diets of the native Indians. The Incas considered it a sacred food and referred to it as
the "mother seed" or "the gold of the Incas".
the "mother seed" or "the gold of the Incas".
In their attempts to destroy and control the South American Indians and their culture, the Spanish conquerors destroyed the fields in which quinoa was grown and made it illegal for the Indians to grow quinoa, with punishment including sentencing the offenders to death. With these harsh measures, the cultivation of quinoa was all but extinguished.
Thankfully this super food was not lost and in the 1980s, two Americans, discovered the concentrated nutrition potential of quinoa and began cultivating it in Colorado. Since then, quinoa has become more and more available as people realise that it is an exceptionally nutritionally beneficial food.
Quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. It is high in protein, the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is especially abundant with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. In addition to protein, quinoa features a host of other health-building nutrients. It is a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, folate, iron and phosphorus, this "grain" may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and cardiovascular health issues among other things.
Furthermore, it is a good source of dietary fibber and provides a significant source of calcium, and thus is useful for vegans. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Making it a food everyone can enjoy.
If you've never cooked it before, have a go, it's quite simple, very much like rice but requires a little less cooking time. It's another wonderful grain to incorporate into your weekly diet. This is a simple, but tasty, great first dish to explore the world of quinoa.
There are so many fantastic uses for quinoa, try it in all sorts of salads, vegetable bakes or nut loafs, and you can use it in place of any dish that has rice. You can also use it in sweet dishes such as porridge either using the cooked grain or the quinoa flakes (rolled flakes like rolled oats) or in cakes or baking using the quinoa flour, found from all good health food shops. Stay tuned for more recipes using this superfood grain!
Makes a large bowl for 8-10 people
Cooking the quinoa
2 cups quinoa
4 cups filtered water
Place the quinoa in a saucepan with 4 cups of filtered water and bring to the boil with the lid on, this taken roughly 5 minutes. Once boiling, reduce to a low-medium heat. Slightly askew the saucepan lid if it continues to boil over. Return the lid once it reaches a low to medium simmer. Allow it to simmer and cook until the little balls have swollen and no longer have an uncooked white centre, this takes for approximately 10 minutes. Turn heat off and leave for a further 5 minutes. For a warm salad you would toss the vegetable through the quinoa and dress it at this stage but if you wish to have a cool salad you can run cold water through the quinoa in a sieve. Once the grain is cool to touch, leave to fully drain, then add the roast vegetables and toss with the dressing below.
Be careful not to over cook the grain as it can quite quickly become mushy and clump together. If you follow this timing, you will soon be a natural at cooking quinoa.
Note: If you have the Australia grown quinoa (best for keeping your food miles down instead of buying the quinoa grown in Bolivia) you will most likely need to wash the quinoa first. The reason being is that it will still contain a naturally occurring coating called saponins, which makes the quinoa quite bitter and unpalatable. Simple rinse it through a sieve with running water for 2 minutes or sit it in a bowl of water for 10-15 minutes, mix around with your finger tips and then rinse it thoroughly. It's very mildly 'toxic' and you couldn't try an eat like this if you tried it's that bitter but once you wash it, it's fine. It takes 2 minutes.
Roasting the vegetables
2x medium sized sweet potatoes, diced
1x medium sized purple onion
1x red pepper
1x yellow pepper
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
cracked pepper and good salt
Prepare the vegetables and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & freshly cracked pepper. Remove a few sprigs of rosemary and scatter over the vegetables. Rosemary imparts that wonderful earthy but pine like fragrant notes, with tinges of lemon and floral characters. It was made to enhance roast vegetables!
Char grilled zucchini's
2x medium zucchini's brushed with salt and olive oil.
Place zucchini's on a hot char grilling pan and allow it to sear for a few minutes. You want the black lines for colour and flavour so peak at one piece first before turning them all. Once you move them to look at, the lines can easily get blurred or criss-crossed. So for the perfect char grilled look, just check one first!
Simple dressing for the quinoa salad
125ml olive oil
1 medium lemon, juiced (approximately 40-50ml)
1 tsp salt
1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
Place all the ingredients except the parsley, in a jar with a lid on and shake. Pour over the salad, add the parsley and carefully toss.