Wednesday 23 June 2010

Quinoa, keeenwah.

As part of my recent dairy-free kick, and wanting to expand my diet a bit so that I have more options, I picked up some quinoa recently.

A couple of things about quinoa:
- It's gluten-free
- It's a complete protein source, and very high in protein for a grain
- Well, actually, it's a seed, I think, not a grain
- Anyway, it keeps well after being cooked. A week or so in the fridge.
- It's low-GI, although I don't yet know if it's diabetic-friendly
- It comes in different colours: black, white and red; I have red
- It's as versatile as rice or couscous
- It's one of those trendy 'superfoods' which means it's a lot easier to get a hold of now than it was 2 years ago.

To cook it, it's basically the same as rice. Add 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa, set to gentle heat, cook for about half an hour, you're done. Easy as. Oh, except the important part: soak or rinse thoroughly (or, hell, both) before cooking. There's a coating that doesn't taste very nice that you want to get rid of. So the internet tells me, at any rate.

Anyway, so far I've done two things with it.

First thing was to make up a fairly plain 'savoury' style. 1 cup quinoa, 2 cups vege stock, a bay leaf, a shake of random spices (cumin, tumeric, chilli, pepper). I had some of this as a lunch, by itself. Man, was it filling. Tasty; the quinoa itself is very mildly flavoured, unlike, say, amaranth (ew). It is also a very textured food - chewy and interesting in the mouth, much more so than rice or couscous. About the closest would be perfectly al dente pasta, but made as it is of smaller pieces, it's not the same at all (which is not a bad thing). I'd say maybe 1/4 cup would have been enough for lunch food, easily.

Based on this experiment, flavoured appropriately, I think it would do well with just about anything that has a liquid component - thai and indian curries, italian sauces (especially tomato-based), stews, casseroles, tinned tuna, that sort of thing.

The second experiment I've conducted is using the cooked leftover quinoa to make a griddle cake, as a substrate for my bacon and eggs, instead of bread. I must say, the results are ... well, not so great. I should probably have looked up some sort of fritter or pancake recipe first, instead of just mixing with egg and spices and whacking it into the pan any old how and hoping. Don't get me wrong, here; it tastes great, the flavours mix well, but it's not holding together very well. Scooping it up with a fork wasn't what I had in mind. On the bright side, this is the perfect excuse to experiment more, and get it right. Hmm ... I wonder what it would taste like mixed in with scrambled eggs?

Other experiments on the horizon: using quinoa to give a bit more texture to meatballs and pies. Making a porridge or congee equivalent, both sweet and savoury. Some form of salad. I'm curious to see how it would work in biscuits, bread, and muffins.