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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

First Quinoa Recipe

I've been carrying out a lot of research into quinoa. This grain is a complete unknown to me. I've only ever had it in some preprepared MandS salads. Firstly, I wanted to find out if it lived up to all the hype.
Today, the term 'superfood' is constantly thrown about and I've always been quite reluctant to get on board. Many superfoods are over priced and I'm still doubtful as to whether they convey much higher health benefits than their less expensive alternatives. The goji berry is the perfect example. I stumbled across this small pink, oblong berry in a mix of other dried berries. After taking a handful of berries I was surprised by the over riding bitterness and endeavoured to sample each berry individually to work out which one was causing it. It was the goji berry. I've now made a mental note to never eat goji berries again.

goji berry mix
Historically, quinoa, like spelt, is an incredibly ancient grain and supposedly dates back to Inca times. Its health benefits are varied and numerous. Here are three of quinoa's best properties.

1. Very high protein content complete with 9 essential amino acids (essential amino acids are ones which our body is incapable of making; instead we must consume them in our diet.)

2. High in iron - this helps to prevent anaemia whose symptoms include lethargy and tiredness. Iron is also a key component of the red pigment, Haemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells. Red blood cells carry out the vital job of transporting oxygen around the body.

3. High fibre - important in helping prevent constipation. Also helps us to feel fuller for longer

Quinoa, happily, is simple to cook. Just follow these simple steps.

1. Use a cup to measure out the quinoa. Generally speaking one small cup is enough to feed two people. You will need double the amount of water to quinoa i.e. one cup of quinoa to two cups of water.

2. Firstly rinse the quinoa under cold water. This rinsing prevents any bitter flavour.

3. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan. Toast the quinoa for two minutes in the oil.

4. Add boiling water to the pan, reduce the heat and simmer the quinoa for 15-18 minutes or until the water is almost all absorbed.

5. Leave the quinoa to stand for five minutes to absorb the remaining water.

On hunting for recipes, the first thing I'm astonished to find out, is that it's quite normal to eat quinoa as both a savoury and sweet grain. Quinoa is the perfect platform for any flavour combinations. I thought I'd start by making a quinoa salad. It's simple to do and you can use any flavour combinations you fancy. I made mine using broccoli, mint and leek, but feel free to use anything you can find in the cupboard. It's always a nice idea to include a fresh herb however (mint, coriander, parsley all work well) as it really freshens up the whole dish. I made a big batch of this salad, and allowed it to cool. It's great for lunch or as an accompaniment to meat or fish dishes.

Quinoa, broccoli, leek and mint salad

quinoa, broccoli, leek and mint salad
Serves 6

1 large mugful of quinoa
1 broccoli head broken into florets
2 leeks, finely sliced
1 large garlic clove, finely sliced
3 tablespoons of freshly chopped mint
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 skinless almonds (lightly toasted in the oven for 5 minutes and then finely chopped)
optional: 3 spring onions, chopped

1. Begin by cooking the quinoa according to instructions above. Leave to cool.
2. Place the broccoli into a large pan of boiling water and allow to boil for 2 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl of cold water to stop any further cooking. Drain again.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a griddle/frying pan on a low heat. Add the slices of garlic and sautee gently for 5 minutes. Increase the heat and add the broccoli florets, stir frying for a couple more minutes. Leave aside to cool slightly before slicing into manageable bite sizes pieces.
4. Using the same pan, add the remaining olive oil and gently sautee the leeks until tender.
5. Finally assemble the dish. Place the quinoa into a large bowl and add the leeks, broccoli, mint and almonds. Sprinkle over the chopped spring onions.

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