What is Quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is the wonder grain: high in protein, gluten-free, easy to digest, and quick to cook. It makes a delicious breakfast (with sweet or savoury additions), pilaf, and salad; it can also be added to baked goods.
Technically quinoa is not a true grain, but is the seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. It is used as a grain and substituted for grains because it can be cooked in such a similar way to more familiar ingredients, such as rice.
Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, with good reason! It’s now being recognised as a food with exceptionally high nutritional value, in particular for its high protein content. Quinoa is approximately 12-18% protein, which is very high, but much more remarkably; it contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. It is particularly high in lysine, cystine and methionine-amino acids typically low in other grains. It is a good complement for legumes, which are often low in these 3 amino acids.
Quinoa is so useful it's being considered as a potential crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights!
How to cook quinoa
Before cooking, the seeds must be rinsed to remove their bitter resin-like coating, which is called saponin. Quinoa is rinsed before it is packaged and sold, and as such, just a quick rinse in a strainer before cooking is plenty. If you get bitter tasting quinoa, it's not been rinsed vigorously enough.
You need 2 cups of water to 1 cup of uncooked quinoa. Cook for 20 minutes and you'll get 3 cups of cooked quinoa (roughly). Try cooking it in bouillon or vegetable stock for a savoury kick, or add fresh herbs and spices to give it zing.
Heat a little bit of olive oil and pop in the rinsed quinoa. Heat for a minute or so to evaporate some of the water. Add the water or stock (remember 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa) and bring to a rolling boil. Pop in a quarter teaspoon of salt if you are using it. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Let it stand for 5 minutes off the heat and still covered. Fluff with a fork and voilá, perfect, tasty quinoa.
How do I use Quinoa flakes?
Quinoa flakes are made from flattening raw, uncooked quinoa. They can be used as a very quick porridge, or added to mueslis, flapjacks and other baking to add protein. They are incredibly easy to use and digest and so are a popular choice for breakfasts. Their high protein content can help to make you feel full all day, they're also incredibly useful if anyone suffers from an upset stomach as they have a calming effect and no allergens. Try our Real Foods Organic Quinoa Flakes available in a range of sizes here. or Biofair's Fairtrade and Organic Quinoa Flakes here.
Simply add water, milk or one the many milk alternatives, soak for around 2 minutes (anything form 90 seconds to about 3 minutes will do it) and eat!
Liven up a Risotto with Mushroom and Quinoa
Try a fruity quinoa salad (great as a side dish for a special occasion)
Zesty Quinoa with Broccoli and Cashews is a quick and easy meal
This tasty quinoa loaf made with mushrooms and peas is a great dairy free and vegan main course
Real Foods How To Cook Guides