Quinoa, here’s why it’s so great…
I simply love cooking with quinoa, but what’s so good about this super grain, and how do you cook and use it?
I first discovered quinoa when I was living in Peru. It was the fuel of the Incas, and is still enjoyed throughout the Andes, providing a wonderful source of healthy protein and nutrition at high altitudes.
It can be a little bit pricey to buy in the UK, as demand has really grown and supply just isn’t keeping up, but the health benefits and nutritional content are really worth paying for, and it makes a quick, nutritious meal that’s rich in protein.
What’s so good about quinoa: the health benefits
Quinoa is one of the few complete vegetarian proteins, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. In fact, it’s not actually a grain at all, making it perfect for those following a grain free diet. It’s a seed, which is why it’s so rich in protein. It’s completely wheat and gluten free, and 100g serving provides about 14g of protein. It has twice the protein content of rice or barley, and also is a great source of fibre, calcium, magnesium, manganese, B vitamins and Vitamin E.
How to use quinoa
If you’re using the “grain”, very often packets will tell you to boil for 19 minutes. I find the quinoa then turns to mush so I tend to simmer it gently for about 14 minutes, just until the grain starts to open and you end up with white horse shoe shapes on the top of the grain. Basically, cook it until it’s no longer crunchy and fairly soft. Quite often I’ll cook a pot of quinoa on a Sunday night, adding a few peppercorns, perhaps a bit of stock and a slice of ginger to the cooking water, and then drain. I’ll add a bit of olive oil or coconut oil and a squeeze of lemon or lime. This can then be kept in the fridge for a few days, and used to make salads for lunch throughout the week, using the recipe below. Quinoa is also a great replacement for brown rice, because it’s lower in starch, higher in protein, but also cooks in half the time. For anyone who’s following a gluten free diet and misses cous cous, quinoa is the perfect alternative!
I also use quinoa flakes quite a lot, adding them to porridge, flapjacks and other cereals. Quinoa can be a little bitter, so I tend to mix with other flakes. You can also purchase quinoa flour, which is a great way to add extra protein to baking, or it’s lovely for making pancakes.
Rainbow Quinoa Tabbouleh: Recipe by Catherine Jeans and Alex Hobbs
This is a great lunch alternative to sandwiches, or can be used as an accompaniment for any main meal. I developed this recipe with my great friend Alex Hobbs, who is a medical herbalist who works with me at The Orange Grove Clinic. We created it especially for our Nutrition and Herbal Workshops for The Big C (more news to come on these workshops in the New Year!). Here’s the recipe:
Half an inch of root ginger
4 – 6 peppercorns
Half a teaspoon of fennel seeds
Juice 1 – 2 lemons
4 tbsp olive oil
Small bunch chopped mint
Small bunch flat-leaf parsley chopped
Small bunch spring onions sliced
½ cucumber diced
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds (chopped if you wish)
Raw vegetables of your choice – e.g. half a carrot, a chunk of red cabbage, a small beetroot
Salt and Pepper to season
· Rinse the quinoa well and place in a pan with about double the volume of water, alongside the root ginger, peppercorns and fennel seeds.
· Bring to the boil gently, cover and reduce the heat, simmering gently on a low heat for around 10 minutes until the grain unwraps into a horse shoe shape
· Turn off the heat and leave the quinoa to cool slightly – drain any remaining water. You can leave the herbs and spices or remove the ginger and peppercorns if you wish.
· Season the quinoa with salt and pepper, then stir in the lemon juice and oil. You can leave to cool or stir in the remaining ingredients and serve.
For a delicious lunch, you could serve with oatcakes or add some feta cheese chunks or drained chick peas.
Happy cooking everyone! If you love cooking with quinoa, why not tell me your favourite recipe? Send me a message at the end of the blog!