Quinoa isn’t actually a newly discovered health grain that is revolutionising the health industry, but a very ancient staple crop that was cultivated some 5000 years ago by the ancient Incas. They understood its nutritional value even then and actually worshipped the grain in their culture. The correct way to pronounce it is ‘keen-wah’ and has been recognised quite recently as one of the healthiest foods there is, which is why people are now beginning to include it in every-day meals.
Today many people categorize it as a grain, but in actual fact it is a seed that is part of the swiss-chard and spinach family. Because it is a seed and not a grain means that it has an outer waxy coating called ‘saponin’, which if not removed prior to cooking can result in your meal tasting very bitter? It is highly recommended to pre-soak the grain for about 7-8 hours or over-night, then wash it and rinse off, this will ensure the coating is removed correctly, it also allows the grain to become a little softer which makes it easier for cooking.
The other substance that is also removed by soaking is something called ‘Phytic Acid’, it is more important that this is removed otherwise you could experience an upset stomach due to the grain being more difficult to digest. You can buy the grain already pre-rinsed, and many large supermarkets are now stocking it like that, however, I would still recommend you wash and rinse it thoroughly before soaking. You can shorten the soak time by using warmer water, this will do the same job just in less time.
Another great tip for you is to use a B.E. wholegrain liquid to soak the grain which you simply add to the water, this gives the grain a softer texture due to the bacteria it contains making it better for cooking quinoa. So once you have completed the preparation of the quinoa, ie: the washing, rinsing and soaking; you are ready to begin cooking.
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The cooking process is very similar to that of normal rice in that you steam or boil it in water, but quinoa requires a little more accuracy in measuring, ie: the ‘mix ratio’. The recommended ratio is one part quinoa grain to two parts water, bring the mixed ingredients to the boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for approx 15 minutes, cooking time can be adjusted give or take a few minutes depending on your own personal preference regarding texture of the rice. If you reduce simmer time you will have a firmer grain, by increasing simmer time will create a softer, more fluffier rice.
A well-cooked quinoa will have a fluffy texture and a natural nutty flavour to it. Overcooking it results in a mushy rice with diminished flavour, so the trick is to watch the simmer time and continually do taste tests as you cook it. Another trick is to cover the rice once cooked for a few minutes, this allows the rice to swell further making it even fluffier.
There are some quinoa recipes that suggest you to toast the quinoa grain, which again is very easy to do, this is with steamed rice; what you do is place the steamed grain onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or so on a high heat, this gives the quinoa rice an extra crunchy texture, great for cereals and such.
Because of the rise in popularity of quinoa rice, the demand for more creative and healthier quinoa recipes has increased. Most of the recipes are simply adding other ingredients to the cooked quinoa which results in a wide variety of dishes. These dishes range from main meals to appetizers, soups, cereals and even snacks. Quinoa has proven itself to be such a versatile health food that there really is an unlimited amount of recipes to try. Be creative and you will be surprised what you can come up with.
I have always been a fitness enthusiast and found it difficult to diet properly; until I finally discovered quinoa rice and the incredible nutritional value it has. Now I find it easy to stick with my diet, so I have put together many delicious quinoa recipes for you to try out for yourselves on my website. There is a wealth of other information on cooking quinoa that you will find very interesting.
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