Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a high nutrient, quick cooking, gluten-free pseudo grain. It’s cooked similarly to grains but is the seed of a beet relative. Originally grown in South America (Peru, Chile and Bolivia) for thousands of years, quinoa formed the staple diet of the Incas and their descendants. The Inca referred to quinoa as the “mother seed,” and considered it to be sacred. Quinoa is cooked quickly in just 15-20 mins and has a subtle nutty taste with a delicate popping texture.
Varieties range in colour from pale ivory to almost black, but the most commonly available are white, red, and black quinoa. The difference in colour doesn’t change the nutritional value or flavour, but white quinoa cooks up fluffier, while red and black quinoa has a crunchier texture. You can also find quinoa flakes, similar to rolled oats, and quinoa flour which is a great flour for gluten free baking.
Quinoa is known as a super grain as it’s a complete protein, providing all the essential amino acids. The UN named 2013 ‘International Quinoa Year’ in recognition of the crop’s high nutrient content. With twice the protein content of rice or barley, quinoa is also a very good source of calcium, magnesium and manganese. It also possesses good levels of several B vitamins, vitamin E and dietary fibre.
Store dry uncooked quinoa in a sealed container away from heat, light and moisture.
Preparing & Cooking Tips
Quinoa seeds are naturally coated with saponin, a bitter substance that protects it from insects when growing. Before cooking make sure to rinse the quinoa with cold water in a fine mesh strainer to remove the bitter soapy residue.
In a medium saucepan, combine a ratio of 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water or broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. When it’s cooked it will become slightly translucent and a part of the hull will be visible.
One cup dry quinoa yields 3 cups cooked.