What is Quinoa?
They have been commemorated as the "Super grain of the future". Pronounced as 'Keen-wa', they were hailed by the Incas as "Mother Grain" - who cultivated it for hundreds of years, high in the Andes for self consumption. That's how ancient they are. Though not a common resident in many kitchens, if it gets a better PR for itself, it would soon become an inseparable part of every wo(man)'s pantry - thanks to it being immensely rich in nutrients. Though it is a politically correct statement to say that Quinoa is a grain, it in reality is a relative to, you wouldn’t guess it, the greens like Swiss Chard and Spinach! We usually think of quinoa as a grain, but it is actually the seed of a plant.
Types of Quinoa
Although Quinoa leaves are also edible just like Amaranth, they are not commonly available. My research on the web and books tell me that there are 4 types of Quinoa though I have come across only two of them in my local market:
1. Whole Grain
- This is what you possibly will come across in your grocery store ( or in health food markets). They are tiny, bead-shaped grains and are slightly bitter but have firm texture. They are an excellent substitute to rice and are cooked in the same way. Unlike rice, these quadruple in size and also become translucent with an unusual white outer ring. There are also red and black varieties of Quinoa available.
2. Quinoa Flour
- These make a nutritious addition to your day to day bakes, be it for cakes, cookies or bread. They can also be used to make your delicious pasta. But if not available, you can always find Pasta made using Quinoa in the market nowadays. They can also be substituted for whole wheat flour in order to increase the nutritional value. [ This picture is courtesy of http://www.organicroad.com ]
3. Puffed Quinoa
- It is similar to puffed corn. These make for crunchy toppings on your favorite desserts, even ice-cream. They are excellent for morning cereal.
4. Pearly Quinoa
- They have a larger grain and are usually opted for breakfast porridge along with milk or used in soups.
How to make Quinoa Flour at home?
For 1 cup of Quinoa flour, grind 3/4 cup of whole Quinoa until it gets a cornmeal texture.
How to cook Quinoa Grain?
In its natural state, Quinoa consists of a waxy coating called Saponins which is what gives it the bitter taste. So, if that’s the case then follow this precautionary procedure:
Soak your quinoa in cold water for about 2 hours. Drain, rinse and soak again for another 2. Then rinse it vigorously to remove the outer layer and cook.
But no cause for panic. Markets are a wonder these days. They do everything for you. I say this since I am yet to come across Quinoa with this coating. They are all done and kept ready, so mostly you wouldn’t need to do this step.
How to cook Quinoa on a Stove top?
For 1 cup of quinoa, bring two cups of cold water to a boil. For a more al dente texture, use only 1.5 cups of water
Cover the quinoa and bring it to a simmer. It takes approx 10-15 minutes and you know its done, when the germ separates from the seed and you will see white colored rings sort’ a things floating around. (its not as bad as it sounds !)
Let it cool, fluff it up and serve.
How to cook Quinoa in a Pressure Cooker
For 1 cup of Quinoa, bring two cups of water. Pressure cook for 5-10 minutes. You can also add salt to the cooking water or replace water with Vegetable/Chicken broth.
How to cook Quinoa in a Microwave
For every one cup of the grain, use 2 cups of water. Place them in a microwave proof dish and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Leave it to stand, stir , and then cook further for another 2-3minutes..Let it stand in order to let it soak up any liquid. You can drain any extra liquid if any. But care should be taken to avoid letting the grain go completely dry while cooking in a microwave.
How to sprout Quinoa?
Like its counterparts, Quinoa grain can also be sprouted. It takes 2-3 days to sprout and must be eaten right away, since they don’t keep very well. A rough gist of the process as below:
1. Rinse the seeds vigorously to remove the saponin coating.
2. Soak the Quinoa seed for about 2-4 hours. Drain.
3. Use your sprouter basket or in a bowl sprout for 12 hours.
4. It sprouts pretty fast. They can also be grown for their leaves.
For a more detailed instruction please refer to this article here
Health benefits of Quinoa
• Unlike its counterparts, Quinoa is a complete protein, since it contains all the eight essential amino acids.
• It has excellent source of potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron and B vitamins
• Thanks to the magnesium content, they are Nature’s medicine for people suffering from Migraines. Add them to you diet often. They are also excellent for the heart.
• Since they are an insoluble fiber, it helps in gallstone prevention.
• They are go-to foods for diabetic patients, since it helps to decrease the blood sugar levels.
• If you suffer from celiac disease, then look no further for Quinoa is here. It is gluten free.
(See all Quinoa Recipes
Although they can be enjoyed in various forms, say in pilaf's, stuffings,bakes and breakfast cereals, they being immensely versatile can be made in any way your creative mind takes you.
1. Quinoa Bread Recipe
2. Strawberry Banana Quinoa Muffins Recipe
3. Baked Quinoa Croquettes Recipe
4. Quinoa Stuffed Peppers Recipe
5. Quinoa Risotto Recipe