This week I thought that I would write about one of the foods that I use a great deal in my cooking demonstrations as an illustration of a versatile really healthy food, Quinoa.
What is Quinoa?
Although it is treated like a grain it is actually a seed related to spinach, Swiss chard and beet family. It is a native of South America, the Incas honouring the food with the title ‘mother seed’. It is well known to give strength and stamina.
The most popular variety and the one that I use is the gold coloured although you can buy other varieties which are red, black or purple in colour. Not sure what the significance of the different colours is.
What are the health benefits of quinoa?
- It is called a really healthy food because it is very rich in protein containing all the essential amino acids, which makes it very useful for vegans and those who want to reduce their overall meat content of their diet. Which is a recommendation made in many books relating to cancer and diet.
- It is extremely rich in magnesium which is needed by every cell of the body to produce energy and also calcium which as we know along with magnesium and vitamin D 3 protects our bones, helping to prevent osteoporosis. This is important for those receiving treatment for hormone related cancers.
- It is also a good source of some vitamins and minerals so really an easy and cheap way to get real nourishment. Finally it is gluten free, high in fibre and light and easy to digest.
Cooking with Quinoa
Many people complain that when they have tried to cook with quinoa, it can go gloopy and stick together. I have experienced this myself but after much trial and error I have discovered a foolproof way to do it
- Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add the quinoa, heat gently and make sure that the seeds are coated in the oil.
- Do not allow to get too hot.
- Add boiling water (it will bubble a bit) to cover the seeds and come about approximately 1” above.
- Reduce the heat and simmer with a lid on until all the water has been absorbed.
- This should take about 20 min according to the quantity used. It should be fluffy and quite dry.
is really versatile I have added some simple ideas of how it can be used.
Vegetable quinoa Combine 1-2 cups of cooked chilled quinoa with one can of drained/rinsed pinto beans, 2 tbsp of pumpkin seeds, 3 spring onions finely chopped, and some ground coriander to taste. Sprinkle with olive oil and season. Serve.
For a breakfast treat add some chopped nuts and fruit to cooked quinoa and serve as a breakfast porridge. (remember that protein at breakfast helps to sustain energy and balance blood sugar).
Use in soup Quinoa makes a nutritious addition to your favourite soup. You can add it uncooked at the beginning of making the soup or add cooked quinoa at the end of the cooking process before serving. This would turn a basic vegetable soup into a complete meal.
Quinoa stew with squash prunes and pomegranate for a main meal that is a little more elaborate.You can play with the flavours once you have tried this. It is equally as good with roasted carrots instead of pumpkin.
1 small butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled deseeded and cut into cubes.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion peeled and thinly sliced.
1 clove garlic peeled and finely chopped.
1 tbsp finely chopped root ginger.
1 tsp Middle Eastern spice.
200g /7oz quinoa seeds.
5 ready to eat prunes roughly chopped.
Juice of 1 lemon.
1pt vegetable stock
Seeds from 1 pomegranate.
- Heat the oven 200’C/gas 6. Toss the squash 1 tbsp olive oil and place on a baking tray and put in the oven to roast until soft about 30min.
- Meanwhile in a pan heat remaining olive oil and gently fry the onion, garlic and ginger for about 10 mins.
- Add the spice and quinoa, cook for a couple of minutes than add the lemon juice, prunes and stock. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for about 25min.
- When everything is tender stir in the roasted squash. Serve and scatter with pomegranate seeds.
Quinoa flour - it’s gluten free.
You can also buy quinoa flour which I quite often use when someone wants a gluten free cake. Gluten is the protein element of wheat flour and can cause some people problems with bloating and digestive issues and to avoid gluten really improves the situation. Some people avoid gluten because it has been shown to suppress immune function and I have been told by many clients and visitors that when they give up gluten (all products containing wheat) that their energy improves.
Banana and carrot cake This is a recipe which I quite often make. Because there is no gluten in the flour the cake will have a much closer texture than those that we traditionally expect when using wheat flour.Using the quinoa , bananas and carrots the nutritional value of this cake is elevated well above that of a normal cake which is good to know.
10oz/300g quinoa flour.
2 level tsps baking powder.
6oz soft brown sugar.
2 medium ripe bananas.
6 oz /150g grated carrots.
3 medium eggs.
150mls/6oz rapeseed oil
8” round cake tins base lined with greaseproof paper and coated with oil.
- Preheat the oven gas 4/elec 160’C.
- Put all the ingredients except the bananas in a mixing bowl and mix well till well blended.
- Add mashed bananas and mix through without beating.
- Put mixture into tin and bake 50-60 mins till golden and risen.
I hope that you try these recipes and enjoy the results.
Blog originally written by Caroline August 2012