Saturday, 29 December 2012
You read it right... A whole post devoted to quinoa! I rave about it all the time. There are a few recurring comments I get when I do:
1. Quinoa? What the eff is that?
2. Ew! I had quinoa once and I didn't like it.
3. I tried to cook it and it didn't turn out.
4. What do you do with it?
In no particular order, here is all the information I have collected in my brain over the years to address the above:
Quinoa (pronounced like keen-wah) is a grain-like seed that is related to many popular leafy green vegetables. It is one of the only complete sources of plant-based protein. Whereas, with most plant based sources of protein (ie. peas and beans) you have to pair them with something (ie. a grain) for your body to be able to use it, with quinoa you do not. Your body can readily absorb, process and use the protein in this super food. Quinoa is also chock full of other great nutritional benefits such as; lysine (which helps with tissue repair), iron and magnesium, to name a few. So for those of us who are active, this is a must have in the pantry.
When cooking quinoa, it is best to soak it for an hour or more to initiate the sprouting process which makes it even easier for your body to break down. If you're in a hurry, not to worry, just a quick soak (a couple of minutes) and rinse will do the trick. This to break down the starchy outer layer of the seeds and rinse it away, if you skip this step your quinoa might taste bitter. The quick and dirty best practice for cooking quinoa is 2:1 - this means 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa (ie. 1 cup of quinoa, 2 cups liquid). I'm saying liquid because it is incredibly versatile and can be cooked in just about anything.
Quinoa has a mild nutty flavor which is great in both sweet and savoury dishes. It can be replaced in any recipe for rice (ie. I've made quinoa fried rice style) and can also be used to make porridge, in cookies... Just about anything you want. You CAN cook it in water... I have stopped doing that and use broth in its place if I'm using the quinoa for a savoury dish and generally vanilla almond milk if I'm using it for porridge or another sweet dish. I would probably prepare it in water if I were using it in a cookie recipe or something... But even then, I may still opt for broth or vanilla almond milk, depending on the recipe.
It does take some time to perfect your quinoa cooking style, so don't get discouraged if it doesn't turn out the first time. The first few times you cook it, keep a close eye on it because if you're cooking it on the stove top you will have to play with the temperature to avoid a) scalding the liquid you're using to cook it or b) burning the quinoa and ending up with a sticky burnt mess in your pot. Here's my best advice for stove top cooking... Put 2:1 quinoa/liquid mixture in the appropriate sized pot and turn the burner on max. Once the mixture starts to approach the boiling point turn the burner down to medium and let the mixture simmer until all the liquid is absorbed into the quinoa and the quinoa seeds have sort of opened and expanded. Cooked quinoa should be firm, but not crunchy.
... And lastly, when somebody tells me they've tried quinoa and don't like it, I tell them they haven't tried quinoa. If you like rice, you will like quinoa done properly. If this sounds like you, I encourage you to give it another shot (or two).
Goodluck!! I welcome your questions/comments! :-)
Have a happy day!