Friday, September 14, 2012

Discovering Quinoa

I'm not sure where I read it now, but a while back I came across an article online talking about quinoa.  Pronounced "keen-wah", the article claimed that the seed, often treated like a grain, was almost considered a super food, with better stuff in it than your average cereals. What also fascinated me in this particular article was the mention that quinoa was the sacred food of the Inca's - so much so that when the Christians arrived they banned the growing of the plant, forcing the Inca's to grow wheat instead.

Have you ever noticed how once you're thinking about something new, it starts to pop up everywhere? All of a sudden I was watching a cooking show on TV, to hear of a quinoa based patty being used in a tasty looking veggie burger. It seemed quinoa was cropping up everywhere! So I decided to hunt down some of my own and give it a try.

Now I know you can buy the stuff from major supermarkets, but you'll find that it's probably sourced from South America. I don't have a problem with eating imported foods (most of the time) but I prefer to eat local (or at least Australian) when I can, so a quick google found me the only Tasmanian producers of quinoa - Kindred Organics.  Kindred is a small area tucked up in the countryside of North West Tasmania, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it spot of rolling pasture, old farm houses, and roads that see more tractors than traffic. Stoked to find not only local quinoa, but organic as well, I scoped out where to buy it and put it on my 'to do list'.  Clearly thinking with intent brings about manifestation into this life, because only days later I'd head to the amazing Laneway Cafe in Devonport for a fab breakky, to find Kindred Organics quinoa sitting on the counter in bags for sale!

The recipe I chose to use is a pretty simple one - I wanted a plain recipe so I could experience the flavour of the quinoa without it being swamped by other flavours ("put the sweet chilli sauce away Jess..."). I also thought I'd do a step by step of my cooking so you know what you're in for if you'd like to give this Inca superfood a try for yourself!

Quinoa Salad

Olive Oil
Flat leaf parsley

Now I haven't put amounts on here becuase it really depends on your personal taste. Fresh is always best but bottled lemon juice and dried parsley would probably work the same, although if I didn't have fresh parsley I'd substitute with something like fresh mint before heading to the dried herb section.

Okay, so quinoa has a bitter coating on it, that keeps the seeds nice and safe when they're in the wild. First step is to give it a bit of a rinse to get this off. The stuff from the supermarket has probably had this step done already, but I'd do it again just to make sure.

I used a sieve and a pot of water, swirling the quinoa around in the sieve with my hand and through the water.  The water turns cloudy, like my poor iPhone pic will show you, and after about 4 rinses the water ends up pretty clear.

Next, time to cook! I cooked it just like rice - about 1cm of water above the quinoa in the pot, bring to the boil then turn down to half until "crab holes" appear and the seeds are soft. Kinda like this:

You can see that the seeds end up having two parts - a squishy, part, and a curly seed part. Someone who knows a lot more about plants than me (which isn't hard!) would be able to tell you what these bits are exactly, but all I know is that it's all edible.

Okay, so it can't be a salad with only one ingredient, so while my quinoa was cooking away I prepared the other parts! Chop stuff up to the size you prefer.

Then pile the quinoa into a bowl...

And mix through the rest, and voila!

"Now wait a minute" I hear you think. "The recipe says lemon yet I spy LIME in those pictures!" - ah-HAH! You would be correct, Beady-Eyed One. And you know what that was?

Stolen from here.
A big freaken mistake. TRUST ME. This salad needs the zing of the lemon, and not the zang of the lime. Woops. Thing was, the shop had limes but not lemons, and I was too lazy to go and steal a lemon from the neighbours...

Anyway, the overall taste is pretty good - you gotta approach it not expecting it to taste like rice or couscous or whatever. It has a nutty aftertaste, and I have to say I dig it. I reckon this recipe would be good with some lamb and minted natural yoghurt - or maybe something chickeny. The Kindred Organics website have some pretty good recipies too!

So, if you like your grainy type things, grab some quinoa sometime and give it a try! And let me know what you create! If you're already a quinoa fan, I'd love to hear about how you cook it.


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