Quinoa is often thought of as a grain but in fact seeds from a plant. These seeds are small and come in a range of varieties. The most common variety is white which has now become readily available in the uk being stocked by Tesco, Sainsbury's and numerous health food shops. Red quinoa has recently become available in the uk although I understand that it has been on sale in the US for quite some time.
The truth about rinsing
For most types you do not need to rinse it. This is due to the large manufacturers realized that they would sell more if it was prewashed before going on sale. So I have not found quinoa on sale that has not been rinsed in the last few months. If it tastes bitter then you need to rinse it by running it under a cold tap for 2 – 3 minutes before cooking.
What does it taste like?
This superfood has a unique flavor and feel to it. It is compared to rice but it has a definite crunch to it. If you overcook it, it will become soft and fluffy like rice but it will not become sticky and stodgy like overcooked rice does. The flavor is unique but is similar to other grains which is probably why it gets confused with other grains. The best description I can think of is like a mildly crunchy porridge.
How do you cook it?
The simplest method is to boil it. You take one part of quinoa to two parts of cold water. Bring it to the boil and simmer for 10 – 20 minutes. There are 2 factors that effect the cooking time.
You can slightly under cook the grains for 8 – 10 minutes which gives a much nuttier and crunchy feel. This is the way I prefer it. When it is subsequently added to other ingredients for a bit more cooking it is better to undercook it. In fact one method of cooking (shown below) includes no pre-cooking at all.
How to microwave these grains
It can be cooked in a microwave quite simply. Using the same ratio of 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water place them in a microwave dish and cook for 3 minutes. Then leave to stand. Stir for a moment and cook for a further 3 – 5 minutes. Allow to stand for 2 minutes. Any remaining liquid can be drained – it is important that the grains in a microwave are not allowed to go dry.
Cooking soups and casseroles
This method simply includes quinoa in soup recipes and casseroles. There is no need to pre-cook the grains in the ways shown above. In soups it can add substance and flavor just by adding it to a favorite recipe. It really is a matter of trying out different soup recipes to find out what you like. Casseroles are very similar.
How to sprout
Quinoa sprouts are the least impressive sprouts you will ever see.It takes only 2 – 3 days to sprout and must be eaten straight away as it does not keep well. The sprouts are tiny. The benefit of preparing the grains this way is that you can eat it raw. A huge boost for those on a restrictive diet demanding raw food. The protein content is almost legendary and raw it really packs a punch as it is full of nutrients and vitamins. It is best combined with other salad vegetables as it can be quite bland on its own.