Ask the experts: the ancient grain, quinoa
Our food experts Fran Abdallaoui and Pamela Clark take a look at one the most popular “grains” around – quinoa.
Can you please tell me what quinoa is? I’ve started to see it on menus and in supermarkets, but don’t know how to cook it!
Dierdre Schultz, via email.
Nutritious and delicious quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is cooked and eaten like a grain, but it is in fact a seed. It has a delicate, nutty flavour and a slightly chewy texture. There are three varieties available – white, red and black. We love it as it is quick to cook, is an excellent carrier of flavours and adds a lovely texture to meals. Use it as a replacement wherever you might use grains or rice (to prepare, see Test Kitchen tip).
Seeds are the means by which many plants procreate, therefore they must give the new seedling the nutrition it needs to grow and sprout. This is why seeds are such nutritional powerhouses and quinoa is no exception. It is rich in protein, dietary fibre, folate, dietary minerals and several B vitamins required to turn the food that you eat into energy to fuel your body.
While it may be relatively new to many of us, quinoa has been a staple food in the Andean region of South America for thousands of years. The Incas are said to have considered it sacred, calling it “the mother of all grains”.