Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), is one of the most nutritious, well tolerated foods available. It is often considered a grain, but it is in fact, a seed of a plant closely related to spinach and beets. This is a food I am more than happy to put in the ‘super’ foods category. In Peru, they consider it ‘the mother seed’ and many health experts consider it the most nutritious food of all.
Quinoa has a nutrition profile rarely found in nature. It is protein rich containing a complete amino acid profile normally found only in meat. It also contains twice as much fibre as any grain and is also gluten free, yippee! It has many health promoting Phyto (plant) chemicals including antioxidants and bio-flavenoids, often in higher concentrations than berries. Research confirms that it contains many anti-inflammatory properties and a very impressive concentration of minerals including iron, magnesium and calcium.
Not only is it highly nourishing, it is also energy dense, which means it is very low in calories compared to the same volume of other foods. It’s alkalizing, has a low glycemic index and I could go on about it forever. That’s my two bobs, however if you want more history and research and you can find it here.
Preparation and cooking
The only irritant found in quinoa are, like many grains, oxalates. Soaking helps to negate this though. The seed is also coated in slightly bitter saponins (a soapy compound). Therefore rinsing it really, really well in a fine sieve is essential (agitate or rub it with your fingers also, to help remove the saponins). This will remove any bitter taste.
To cook it use 1 part quinoa (i.e.; 1 cup) to 2 parts liquid (i.e.; 2 cups). The best liquid is either water or even stock (for savoury dishes). Bring it to the boil then simmer until the quinoa becomes opaque, approximately 10-12 minutes. Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes. This step gives the quinoa time to pop open and the little white spiral to appear. After 5 minutes, remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Allow to cool.
In the Thermomix, cook it in the rice basket at the same speed and temperature as rice, for 12-15 minutes. I often soak it in the TM bowl overnight, drain, rinse again and then cook for 10 minutes in the morning.
I use quinoa to replace rice, in both sweet and savoury dishes. It makes delicious salads, is lovely in soups, great as a porridge and the flour can also be used in baking (usually in combination with another gluten free flour like rice flour).
You will be seeing plenty of this amazing whole food in many more recipes to come. But for now here’s a few ideas for including quinoa in your diet:
Cook the quinoa in water as above (I often do this the night before or first thing in the morning). In a small pot, gently heat the quinoa with the milk of your choice (dairy or other). The Thermomix method is 6-7 minutes, temp 80, reverse speed 1. Add a little cinnamon, maple syrup or brown rice syrup to taste and top with fresh fruit. A high protein, high energy start to the day.
Rolled quinoa can also replace oats in breakfast porridge (or half-half is lovely too).
Mix a can of tuna, some salad greens or herbs, cherry tomatoes and feta through a cup of cooked quinoa. Dress with lemon juice and olive oil, season and serve.
Serve quinoa instead of rice with a stir fry or curry. Delicious, especially when cooked in stock. I also choose a quinoa and rice pasta (I like the one made by Olive Green Organics).
Try quinoa in my Healthy Grain Salad, it’s really good. Find it here.
My Nourishing Anzac Biscuit also has a gluten free variation including quinoa flakes. Find the recipe here.
I also always add rolled quinoa flakes to my homemade Toasted Muesli. You will find the recipe here.
Quinoa Patties (pictured) and my Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms are also favourite meals.
Tuna Quinoa Salad and Blueberry, Rocket and Almond Salad.
My Quinoa Tabouleh is divine.