My love affair with Quinoa began around 6 months ago. At first I was hesitant to make friends with Quinoa. I felt too shy to dive in and give myself completely to this self-assured, dreamy grain (note, it is actually a seed, but I treat it like a grain). I was intimidated by it’s nonchalant presence in the trendy, funky vegan crowd. “What is this new grain?” I thought to myself. “Am I cool enough to use it?”
Initially, I believed the answer to be a resounding and frank, “no”. You see, after reading a recipe involving this charismatic grain, with slight trepidation I went on the prowl for my very first bag. When I asked a shop assistant whether she had any “qwin-oa”, she began to laugh at me and ever so (un)kindly pointed out the correct pronunciation. I left red faced with my bag of “keen-wah”, feeling more confidant than ever in my theory that Quinoa was simply too cool for me.
When I got home, however, I felt a new surge of curiosity and hope. I looked at my bag of Quinoa on the kitchen bench. “What was the big deal?” I thought. “It’s not so intimidating. Maybe these little circular grains and I are meant to be?”
And so I cooked up my first batch of Quinoa. I added some chopped parsley, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and goats fetta. I squeezed some lemon juice over the top as well as some freshly cracked pepper. It was too easy. A pleasure.
And then I ate…
And fell in love…
And, my friends, life has never been the same.
I was so very wrong in my assumption that Quinoa was too cool for me. Quinoa and I hang out all the time, and it is always amazing. Quinoa porridge, Quinoa and tofu and my favourite, Quinoa tabbouleh. We are a match made in heaven. Having proclaimed my love and detailing the beginning of this glorious relationship that I cherish so, I must inform you that Quinoa and I are not exclusive. I am ok with other people enjoying Quinoa too. I guess…
Nutritionally, Quinoa really is a super food. It is an ancient grain, originating in South America – I just love my food history. For all those Coeliacs or gluten sensitive people out there, cue the halleluiah chorus, Quinoa is gluten free! My favourite characteristic of Quinoa, is that it is high in protein. Moreover, it is a complete protein (meaning the balance of essential amino acids are ideal). This is great news for vegetarians/vegans, and hence why it is part of the ‘in’ vegan crowd (and why I expect that sales of Quinoa peak in Fitzroy and Northcote). It is also high in fibre and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus and iron. In terms of flavour, Quinoa has a lovely nutty aroma and taste, and is beautifully fluffy.
Don’t waste your time and effort being intimidated by this brilliant and charismatic grain. Leap in heart first, go and buy yourself some “keen-wah”, and experience it’s wonder. But be prepared to fall in love.
Last Sunday, Ben and I had a late lunch in Red Hill with my parents. It was prime barbequing weather, and so we cooked outside in the gorgeous sunshine, beer in hand and the smell of barbeque delights filling the sunny Spring air.
I made a Quinoa salad, as I felt it was high time I introduced my new love to my parents. A bit awkward with Ben there and all, but as I somewhat begrudgingly said before, Quinoa and I are not exclusive.
Quinoa Salad with lemon, basil and a touch of cumin
2 cups white quinoa (rinsed well) (you can use red quinoa if you wish)
4 cups water (you may need to add more, just keep an eye on it)
1/2 a red onion (more or less if you wish)
1 big handful of fresh basil
2 meyer lemons, rind and juice (you can use other lemons, I just prefer the flavour of meyer lemons)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon cumin (more if you wish, this is a conservative amount for just a ‘hint’)
freshly cracked pepper
Note: some lightly steamed and chopped asparagus would be a lovely addition.
Place the quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. You will know it is ready once the quinoa begins to soften and open up. Drain any remaining liquid. Allow to cool.
Once cooled, add in the basil, chopped red onion and asparagus if you are adding in extra veggies. Squeeze the lemon juice into a cup and add in the crushed garlic. Stir it a little then add to the salad. Sprinkle the cumin over the salad and stir to combine. Add cracked pepper to taste and top with lemon rind.
Serves 6 as a side salad.
Baker D Chirico Pagnotta bread, which my parent’s bought yesterday. A lovely wholesome flavour.
We ate outside, the sun gently warming our skin. It was such a delightful meal. And now that Quinoa has met the parents, (they loved the charming grain, by the way) I see a great future ahead of us. Quinoa and me.