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Thursday, 23 August 2012

Quinoa, An Ancient Grain

Believe it or not, even though I'm a dietitian and you could say I have all the insider info on what's hot and what's not in the food realm, I have not tried quinoa up until now. It's been a widely talked about ancient grain/cereal for about a year or so now - in fact, the year 2013 is officially declared the The International Year of Quinoa by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations! To delve even deeper into its significance, it is known as the Super-Food of South America due to its nutritional whole-ness, and may play a huge role in food security in the future. Exciting!!

Whenever people asked me about quinoa and its health benefits I would say its great, good source of fibre and protein, suitable for coeliacs....and I think it's easy to prepare and tastes good?? How do you cook it you ask? Uhh I think you boil it......?? =P

I'm one of those people where I find it hard to tell people how something is unless I've tried it myself. Even after working in retail for many years now, I still find it hard to tell people how flattering something may look on or how comfortable it is unless I've tried it on. Telling them it looks great on them is an entirely different issue =P. Anyways, I digress. This inability to provide recommendations has lead me to try new things which is great! I guess it just took me a bit of time to jump on the quinoa bandwagon, but I'm glad I finally did!! This stuff tastes great!! It's quite easy to prepare and I think it's incredibly versatile. I tried white quinoa for this recipe, but there is also red and black quinoa which differ a bit in texture and flavour when cooked, and also a bit in nutritional content but they're all very good for you! Actually, there are heaps of varieties of quinoa but these three are the most widely cultivated and consumed, and cook very well.

I've heard people say that they find it quite bland, but I think it's all up to preparation. I mean, boiled plain rice can taste bland, so you need to season and flavour it properly. Or eat it with something else.

Quinoa is prepared very similarly to rice - about 2 parts water for every 1 part of quinoa, boil/cook over medium/high heat with the lid on until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid (about 25 minutes for 1 cup quinoa). Just a tip, I think by roasting the quinoa in the pan for about 5-10 minutes before letting it cook can really enhance its flavour. I prepared my first batch of quinoa with a bit of garlic and onions, and used low sodium, low fat vegetable stock instead of water to cook it, which really added flavour to it.

If you've never tried quinoa before (and really like garlic like me =P) this recipe is a great starting point. Rena Paten's 'Cooking with Quinoa' has some great ideas and recipes, using the many forms of quinoa (grain, flake and flour). I recently borrowed this from my local library and I can't wait to try some recipes from it =D. Another really good book is Quinoa 365 by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming - great reviews, got my copy on order form Book Depository!

Quinoa is available at most supermarkets and health food stores.

Garlic Quinoa

1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
1 tbsp chopped garlic (or less =p)
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cups low sodium vegetable stock (or any other low sodium stock)

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion to pan and sautée for about 4 minutes.

2. Add quinoa to the pan and toast for about 5-10 minutes, making sure the garlic and onions don't burn and that the quinoa doesn't get too brown.

3. Stir in stock and reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender.

4. Once cooked, serve quinoa on its own or with a dash of lemon. Great for a snack or as an accompaniment to savoury dishes :)

I cooked this again a few days ago and added some pine nuts and dried herbs which just elevated it even more! I toasted the pine nuts separately and added then afterwards but I think it's fine to toast them along with the quinoa. I also added the dried herbs before simmering, but again I'm sure you can add it afterwards.

Enjoy =D xx


  1. Hi eesh. I have had quinoa at a vegetarian friend's house once. She used this in shepard's pie instead of minced meat. I couldn't tell the difference though, and asked her if she has quit eating rabbit food :) that's when she told me it was quinoa.

  2. Isn't isn't it amazing stuff!! You reckon you'd try cooking it? That's really interesting, using it to make Shepard's Pie, I'll defs have to look that one up :). Just another testament to how versatile it is!

  3. Thanks for following me on Instagram! I love your photos (because it's all of food hehe)

    Follow me on xx

  4. Haha no worries Lisa! Your instagram contributes to my stash of food porn =P. I've been looking at your blog and it's great cos I'm heading down to Melbourne in a few weeks, so you've pretty much provided me with a foodie guide haha. So jealous you live in such a beautiful city xx


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