What is quinoa?
Quinoa is a tiny, bead-shaped grain that has a firm texture and a slightly bitter flavour. The Incas, and many other cultures, understood its value as a food through the ages, referring to it as the ‘mother grain’.
The Incas grew it high in the Andes, so you get a flavour of its hardiness from this. It differs from rice because it is a ‘full protein’. This means it contains all eight of the essential amino acids.
The United Nations have recognised it as a ‘super crop’ which means it is packed full of dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.
To top it off, it is gluten-free and easy to digest too! These are just some of the reasons that quinoa has become so popular over recent years.
Many of our cookery courses will introduce new ingredients to students, quinoa being one of them. Like most grains and pulses, getting the cooking of it right is important and so the basic method of preparing and cooking quinoa is a simple.
- Place the required amount of quinoa in a sieve and rinse under running cold water. This removes the bitter flavour and any dust too
- Place in a pan and add double the amount of salted water.
- Over a medium heat, bring it to the boil.
- Once it is boiling, reduce to a simmer until it is tender and the liquid absorbed. This takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Fluff it up with a fork and then use to create a delicious dish.
A starter quinoa recipe – Spiced Veggie Tortilla Wraps
Fancy having a go? Here is a basic recipe to get you started. Adjust the flavours, ingredients and seasoning to suit your taste. Enjoy these veggie-stuffed tortilla wraps for lunch or as part of a summer evening meal for four hungry diners.
- 150g quinoa
- Olive oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 clove of garlic (or two if you like garlic!)
- ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 tomatoes roughly chopped
- 400g tin black beans – or beans of your choice
- 200g tinned or defrosted sweetcorn
- A generous squeeze of half a lime
- Herbs of your choice but coriander works great
- 1 avocado peeled and chopped (discard the stone)
- 1 small chilli, red or green, finely chopped – if you like spice, leave the seeds in
- 4 tortillas
1. Prepare the quinoa – Start by following the five-step process above for preparing your quinoa. It will need to drain thoroughly before packing in the tortillas so try making it a few hours ahead of assembling your tortillas.
2. Sauté the vegetables – Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions until they are soft. Add the garlic and cayenne pepper, frying for around a minute before you had the chopped tomatoes, black beans and sweetcorn.
3. Add the quinoa and season – Cook for around 5 minutes before you add the drained and fluffy quinoa. Add the generous squeeze of half a lime along with the chopped herb of your choice. Cook for a few minutes, gently stirring until the quinoa has warmed through. You could add some of the chopped chilli too at this point.
4. Build the tortilla wraps – Pile a generous helping of the mixture into the centre of each tortilla, topping each glorious pile of veggie spiced quinoa with a little more chilli and a generous shower of avocado. Wrap well and enjoy both hot and cold!
5. Add a cooling yoghurt mix – Why not make your own cooling yoghurt and mint dressing to cool it off? Use half a tub of Greek-style yoghurt with a dollop of mint sauce, as well as a light seasoning of salt and pepper, mix well and serve alongside the tortillas.
Why not try quinoa and let us know how you get on? We’d love to know what you think.