It is not a grain but a seed from a vegetable similar to spinach and beets. This crop, that could survive high altitudes and severe conditions, was considered sacred by the Incas. After the Spanish Conquest it was deemed illegal by Spanish Colonists and the Incas were forced to grow wheat instead.
Not surprisingly, it has been growing in popularity since being rediscovered in the 1980’s. It is a very nutrient rich food with an impressive checklist for the health conscious shopper.
Among its many health benefits, aside from its delicious, nutty flavour with a creamy, chewy texture:
- it is high in protein and fibre (helps you feel full) its protein balance is similar to milk and has more protein compared to rice, millet or wheat.
- it is a good source of riboflavin. Riboflavin helps reduce the frequency attacks in migraine sufferers by improving the energy metabolism within the brain and muscle cells
- it is a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, thus helping regulate blood sugar
- it has properties that help lower cholesterol which is good for heart health
- because it is not a grain, it is gluten free and there is a decreased risk of allergy
- contains anti inflammatory and antioxidant phytonutrients
- it only has 172 calories per ¼ cup dry quinoa.
Although most commercial quinoa has been pre-rinsed, it is not a bad idea to rinse it before use. Quinoa is coated with a bitter tasting chemical called saponin (saponin deters birds from eating the seeds) and you want to be sure there is no residue. Place quinoa in a strainer, run cold water over it until the entire soapy residue has been washed away. You can taste test a few seeds; if they still have a bitter taste, run more cold water over them. Rubbing the seeds while rinsing with water takes away even more bitterness.
To cook quinoa, add one part quinoa to two parts liquid in a saucepan, bring to boil cover and simmer for fifteen minutes. Dry roasting before cooking this way, will impart a nuttier flavour to the seed
A simple curried quinoa dish using The Epicentre’s Madras curry:
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon The Epicentre’s Madras Curry powder
salt and pepper, to taste
3 green onions, finely chopped
plain yogurt (optional)
In a medium sized saucepan combine the water and quinoa; bring to boil.
Reduce the heat, cover and let simmer 15 minutes until quinoa is tender.
Remove from heat and fluff up with a fork.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add cooked quinoa, pecans, raisins, curry powder, salt, and pepper; stir to combine and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until heated through.
Remove from heat and stir in green onions. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt.
“Quinoa seeds, Peru” by Bioversity International