Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a small, round, quick-cooking grain somewhat similar in colour to sesame seeds. It’s a nutritional powerpack—an excellent source of low GI carbs, fibre and protein, and rich in B vitamins and minerals including iron, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. You can also buy quinoa flakes and quinoa flour, but GI of these products has not yet been published.
Photo: Ian Hofstetter, The Low GI Diet Cookbook
Health and organic food stores and larger supermarkets are the best places to shop for quinoa. You may find it’s a little more expensive than other grains. The wholegrain cooks in about 10–15 minutes and has a light, chewy texture and slightly nutty flavour and can be used as a substitute for many other grains. It is important to rinse quinoa thoroughly before cooking—the grains have a bitter-tasting coating designed by nature to discourage hungry hordes of birds.
- Substitute quinoa for rice, couscous, cracked wheat or barley in soups, stuffed vegetables, salads, stews and even in a ‘rice’ pudding.
- To serve four as side dish, rinse 1 cup of quinoa. Drain, place the grains in a medium-sized pot with 2 cups of water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and leave to barely simmer until all the water is absorbed.
- For a richer flavour, toast quinoa (but don’t let it burn) in a dry pan for a minute or two before cooking as above.
- Check out Rebecca Wood’s Quinoa the Supergrain: Ancient Food for Today for plenty of recipes and meal ideas using quinoa.