Just recently a few of my clients have mentioned that they are not so taken by quinoa. I was surprised as I find this highly nutritious little grain very versatile, so I thought I would share a few tips on how I use quinoa and a warm salad I made last week which was really delicious…
First, quinoa comes in all different types of shapes and sizes, including flour, flakes, puffed (see below for more info on these) or the grain which is what I use mostly and what I used in this salad. The quinoa grain can be used in place of cous cous or rice in all sorts of dishes including (but not limited to) salads (and here and here), soups, pilafs, fritters or meatballs, stuffings, sushi, crackers or in sweet dishes like porridge, cakes (and here) or puddings. On its own though it doesn’t have much flavour (bit like cous cous and rice!). It is available in 3 different colours, white, red or black; I prefer the white and red ones. Sometimes a mix of all three (tricoloured) is available. It is very easy to use, just rinse it to remove any bitter saponins it may have on the surface, boil in water for 15-20 minutes (just like cooking rice) and drain well when it is done (see below for information on quinoa’s health benefits).
This recipe is a good example of how I like to use quinoa. Cook it, add a yummy dressing, then add lots of other interesting flavours to the dish which provide a complexity of textures as well. This salad made a great side dish for baked salmon.
To make the salad… First cut up the fennel, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then place on prepared tray and bake for 30 minutes. Repeat this step with the cauliflower
- 2 small fennel bulbs, cut into small wedges, reserve fronds for garnish
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- ½ head cauliflower, broken or cut into florets
- ¾ cup red or tri-coloured quinoa (approx. 2 cups cooked)
- juice of 1 lemon (approx. ¼ cup)
- ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh coriander
- 30g goats cheese or vegan cheese
- seeds from ½ small pomegranate
- Heat oven to 175 degrees and line 1 large or 2 medium oven trays with baking paper
- Place chopped fennel into a medium sized bowl.
- Drizzle over ½ tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
- Toss to coat then scoop out onto one end of prepared large tray and spread out.
- Repeat process with cauliflower florets and bake for 30 minutes or until soft and lightly browned.
- Place quinoa in a sieve and rinse well.
- Add rinsed quinoa to a saucepan that has a good fitting lid along with 1 cup of cold water.
- Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before removing lid and using a fork to fluff it up.
- Drizzle cooked quinoa with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, chopped coriander and toss to combine.
- When the cauliflower and fennel are cooked, add to quinoa.
- Dollop with goats cheese and generously sprinkle the top with pomegranate seeds.
- Lastly sprinkle over some of the fennel fronds.
Nutritional Benefits of Quinoa:
A low GI carbohydrate, meaning it provides a slow release, sustainable source of energy that our bodies will use rather than store
A complete protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies need for growth, maintenance, repair and good health
High in fibre – in fact quinoa has twice the amount of fibre of brown rice. Most importantly though, it is a soft soluble fibre, gentle on the bowels but keeps them moving
Low in fat, but does contain a small amount of the essential omega 3 fatty acids
Good source of iron and is quite a valuable source of iron for vegetarians and vegans
Good source of the B group vitamins riboflavin, niacin and thiamine which are all important for energy production and release
Good source of other nutrients including vitamin E (for healthy skin), vitamin C, calcium (for strong healthy bones), potassium (can lower blood pressure), magnesium (for muscle relaxation), phosphorus, zinc (immune support), manganese and copper
Gluten free – a high fibre, low Gi carbohydrate source for those with coeliac disease
A valuable source of antioxidants, especially the darker coloured quinoas – Antioxidants are found in all plant foods, they promote health by preventing free radical damage to the cells of our body, which I like to simplify as they slow down the ageing process! Now who doesn’t want that!?!
Types of Quinoa
Flour – remember it doesn’t have gluten in it though, so will provided a very different texture in baking than wheat flours. It can be mixed ½ and ½ with wheat flour however in some recipes
Flakes – created by steam-rolling the whole grain. Can be used as an alternative to oats, but have a much softer texture. Can be used in place of breadcrumbs (although I have never done this)
Puffed – used as a breakfast cereal, or added to muesli, muesli bars, biscuits, energy balls or as a coating like breadcrumbs
Grain – (as per above) can be used in salads, soups, pilafs, fritters or meatballs and stuffings. A great alternative to cous cous and rice, or can be used as a mix with rice and/or barley and/or other grains.