Friday, 6 March 2015

What on Earth Can I Do With Quinoa

Raw quinoa
Quinoa, pronounced 'keen-wah', has come to prominence in recent years as one of the much touted "super-foods". When I talk about using it in cooking though, I am still met with people telling me they have no idea what they're supposed to do with it.You'd be amazed at just how versatile and simple this little tiny grain can be to prepare.

 The plant, closely related to tumbleweeds, was first grown in the Andes of South America over 3000 years ago.  Technically, quinoa is a pseudocereal as it is not a type of grass. It is a member of the Amaranthaceae family, is high in protein, and is gluten free.

Thanks for the botany lesson, but what can I do with it?

If you can cook rice, you can cook quinoa. Actually, even if you can't cook rice you will be able to cook quinoa as it is a bit more forgiving than rice. 30 grams raw quinoa makes an 80gm serving.

30gm raw = 80gm cooked
To cook quinoa:

  1. Bring a pot of liquid to boil. 
  2. Pour in the quinoa. 
  3. Leave it along to boil for about 5 - 7 minutes. 
  4. Drain.

Note: The instructions on the packet say to cook for over 10 minutes but I have always found that it is cooked within 7 minutes.

Once cooked, you can do just about anything with quinoa. Practically any dish that can be made or served with rice can substitute quinoa.

How do I know it's cooked?

There are two ways to know that quinoa is cooked.
  1. You can taste it. The grains will be soft with a very slight bit of texture when chewing. 
  2. You can look at it. When quinoa cooks, tiny rings detach from the outer edges grains. Spoon a
    Red quinoa with visible rings
    few out from the simmering water, if you see these little circles chances are very likely that it has been cooked enough.

4 Things to Do with Quinoa

Breakfast Quinoa

1 serving
  • Add a chopped apple to 1 pint water and bring to a boil. 
  • Add in 30gm uncooked quinoa and let simmer until done. 
  • Drain. 
  • Sprinkle over a bit of sugar or honey and pour over 1/2 cup milk, if desired.


Quinoa salad

2 servings

  • 60gm uncooked quinoa
  • 2 pints water, or home made vegetable stock
  • Vegetable stock cube (if not using home made stock)
  • 1/2 savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 leek, cut into thin rings
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Bring the stock up to a boil and add the quinoa. Cook until done. Drain and leave to cool. 
  2. Cook the shredded cabbage and leek either in boiling water or by steaming. Drain. 
  3. Add to the cooled quinoa. 
  4. Season to taste and drizzle over the olive oil.
Variation: Add cooked chicken, ham, fish or seafood if desired.

This can be eaten as a side dish substitute for potatoes, pasta, or rice or it can be combined with a green leaf salad to make a healthy lunch-time option. I will make double portions for dinner, then use the leftovers for my lunch the next day.

Quinoa stuffing

Use cooked quinoa to stuff chicken breasts, pork chops, mushrooms, squashes, and just about anything else you can think of. Try adding different flavours by using chilli peppers, onions, and just about any herb or spice which will compliment the food being stuffed.
Place in a moderately hot oven and bake until the dish is cooked through.

Quinoa jambalaya

Serves 4

Quinoa can be substituted for rice in this traditional Cajun dish

  • 1 T olive oil plus 1 T butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 chilli pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
  • Cajun spice or jambalaya paste
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 pound cooked meats - use sausages, chicken, fish or seafood or a combination of any of these
  • 120gm uncooked quinoa
  • 2 pints chicken or vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oil and butter in a stew pot. Add the onion, peppers, celery and garlic and cook until softened. Once cooked, stir in the cajun spice or jambalaya paste and let cook another minute.
  2. Add in the tinned tomatoes and cooked meats and mix together. 
  3. Add the quinoa and cook another minute, stirring constantly to keep from sticking. 
  4. Pour in the stock.
  5. Bring up to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer until the quinoa is cooked. 
  6. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Alternate cooking method:
Cook the quinoa up separately in stock and serve the jambalaya over it. 

Vegetarian alternative:
Omit the meats and substitute cooked butternut squash and a tin of chickpeas.