Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quinoa - My Fav Ingredient

First of all, this is pronounced keen - wah, not kwinoa. Really important that we avoid shop assistants hiding their guffaws at our mispronounced requests!
Although actually a seed, quinoa is most commonly considered a grain and is a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard( think cancer fighting here!). It is a recently rediscovered ancient "grain" once considered "the gold of the Incas." I consider it one of my key Super Foods and eat it at least 3 times a week.

Quinoa is high in protein (12-18%), 50% higher than wheat. Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. This means it takes less quinoa protein to meet one’s needs than wheat protein. Not only is quinoa's amino acid profile well balanced, making it a good choice for vegans concerned about adequate protein intake, but quinoa is especially well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair.

It is a good source of dietary fibre and phosphorus; is high in magnesium and iron; is a good source of vitamins A, E and B; and contains more calcium and fat than other grains. Quinoa is also gluten-free and extremely easy to digest. Usually a Fair Trade product this means that the people growing the crop are paid a fair price for their hard work - much more ethically responsible!

My cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice. Soaking helps quinoa to cook evenly and loosens up the outer coating of saponin, which can give a bitter taste if not removed. I find that if you are buying boxed quinoa, as opposed to loose, it is generally already rinsed. Dry pan fry it for a few minutes to enhance the nuttiness. Bring two cups of water to boil with one cup of quinoa, cover at a low simmer and cook for 7 - 10 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. Ensure that you fluff the quinoa with a fork before serving. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta).
I particularly love the red variety and as it is higher in iron it is a better choice for me. I love it done with some zested lemon rind, fresh parsley from my garden, some of my mum's extra virgin olive oil and lastly some Himalayan salt. Add to this a beautifully grilled snapper fillet and you have one of my favorite dinners! Or I make a quinoa flake porridge with raspberries in winter. Let me know how you like to use quinoa and share your favorite recipe!
Love Emm

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