Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a seed that cooks like a grain, which is why it is referred to as a pseudo-grain. Along with amaranth, it is known as an ancient grain that was a staple food of the Incas. They called it the mother of all grains due to its high protein content.
Quinoa is a complete plant-based protein; it contains all nine essential amino acids. It is high in minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium, B vitamins and dietary fibre. Quinoa is gluten-free.
When harvested, quinoa seeds are coated with bitter tasting saponins that discourage insects from eating them. Most commercial quinoa will have been pre-washed during processing but it is still recommended to rinse before cooking. You can find three varieties of quinoa: black, red and white, or a combination of all three.
How do I cook quinoa?
If you can cook rice you can cook quinoa, and in less time. Quinoa is usually cooked in water; however you could also cook it in a stock for added flavour and nutrients. Generally you would use two cups of water per cup of quinoa. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes. When it is cooked a small translucent tail will be visible. Let sit for a few minutes, then fluff up with a fork and serve.
For a quick nutritious meal add grated or finely chopped vegetables, and/or cooked beans just before all the water is absorbed. Quinoa tastes quite bland but also absorbs the flavour of stock and added herbs easily.
If you have leftover quinoa you can refrigerate it for up to five days. It can be added to salads, or used in plant-based burgers or stuffing. It is highly versatile and can be adapted to both sweet and savoury recipes.